Triangular Road: A Memoir

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Overview

In Triangular Road, famed novelist Paule Marshall tells the story of her years as a fledgling young writer in the 1960s. A memoir of self-discovery, it also offers an affectionate tribute to the inimitable Langston Hughes, who entered Marshall’s life during a crucial phase and introduced her to the world of European letters during a whirlwind tour of the continent funded by the State Department. In the course of her journeys to Europe, Barbados, and eventually Africa, Marshall comes to comprehend the historical enormity of the African diaspora, an understanding that fortifies her sense of purpose as a writer.

In this unflinchingly honest memoir, Paule Marshall offers an indelible portrait of a young black woman coming of age as a novelist in a literary world dominated by white men.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
…engaging and unusual…though fiction may have pride of place in her heart, Triangular Road reveals a strong gift for self-scrutiny made all the more revealing by quiet humor and what appears to be complete honesty. Paule Marshall has lived a full life, has accomplished much, and we can only hope to have more from her as she heads, confidently and enthusiastically, into her ninth decade.
—The Washington Post
Blake Wilson
This book, based on a series of lectures…in places reads more like a notebook than a polished work. But it's a lovely example of a mature writer's voice, as well as a record of how she found it.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

This elegant, passionate, elliptical memoir of self-exploration and revelation transports the reader well beyond its origins as a series of Harvard lectures. The title is an allusion to novelist and MacArthur fellow Marshall's (The Fisher King) geographic, intellectual and emotional triangulation among the peoples and locales that shaped her-Barbados and Grenada; the Bajan community of Brooklyn; and Africa. Marshall begins with a 1965 State Department-sponsored tour of Europe in the company of her idol, Langston Hughes, when she was a young author and civil rights activist. The book continues as a meditation on "Bodies of Water" (the theme of the original lecture series) as diverse as the James River, the principal port of entry for African slaves in the 18th century, and the Caribbean. Among other personal stories that give her book artistic flair are Marshall's early encounter with the redoubtable editor Hiram Haydn; her disturbing experience with another editor, who was giddy over her upcoming tour of a Virginia plantation ("Our association ended shortly thereafter," Marshall writes drily); and her father's odd devotion to Father Divine. When the USIS again taps Marshall, this time for a mission to Nigeria, the reception she and other U.S. representatives elicit from some of their hosts-welcome combined with shame over their ancestors' complicity in the slave trade-is revelatory. 6 illus. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

While still a young, unknown author, Marshall (Brown Girl, Brownstones) had the good fortune of being taken under the wing of Langston Hughes. In 1959, Hughes nominated her first novel for national prizes, making sure she had the opportunities to travel abroad on behalf of America's State Department. His death in 1967 left her "with a continued sense of loss." Brooklyn, Barbados, Grenada, Europe, and Africa are the places Marshall returns to over and over again, both physically and metaphorically. Her parents, who emigrated from Barbados before meeting in New York, had a difficult relationship, exacerbated by unrealistic expectations and financial stress. To her credit, Marshall places her family's tensions within the larger context of community tensions. She doesn't offer blame; instead, she's generous, gentle, humorous, and honest in her recounting of family history and her coming-of-age as a writer. Her memoir is highly recommended for all libraries.
—Pam Kingsbury

From the Publisher
USA Today
“Marshall's melodious voice is mesmerizing. The only complaint here is the reader is left wanting more of it.”

Dallas Morning News
“Writer Paule Marshall has long been a quiet national treasure, creating rich characters whose stories seep into our souls as they explore their complex Caribbean and American roots….This isn't just a memoir. It's a book that provides a rare, honest look at the deep, personal well where one writer draws her strength, a gift that anyone interested in understanding literature should cherish.”

USA Today
“This slim, elegant memoir traces the author's life from Africa to Barbados to Brooklyn, her melodious voice leaving readers aching for more.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465019229
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/26/2010
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 4.70 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Paule Marshall is the author of five novels: Brown Girl, Brownstones; The Chosen Place, The Timeless People; Praisesong for the Widow; Daughters; and The Fisher King. A MacArthur Fellow and winner of the Dos Passos Prize for Literature, Professor Marshall has taught at various universities over the course of her lifetime; she now holds the Helen Gould Sheppard Chair of Literature and Culture at New York University. She lives in New York and Richmond, Virginia.

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