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The Wedding: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

   In her first novel in forty-seven years, Dorothy West, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, offers an intimate glimpse into African American middle class.  Set on bucolic Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s, The Wedding tells the story of life in the Oval, a proud, insular community made up of the best and brightest of the East Coast's black bourgeoisie.  Within this inner circle of "blue-vein society," we witness the prominent Coles family gather for the wedding of the ...

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The Wedding: A Novel

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Overview

   In her first novel in forty-seven years, Dorothy West, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, offers an intimate glimpse into African American middle class.  Set on bucolic Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s, The Wedding tells the story of life in the Oval, a proud, insular community made up of the best and brightest of the East Coast's black bourgeoisie.  Within this inner circle of "blue-vein society," we witness the prominent Coles family gather for the wedding of the loveliest daughter, Shelby, who could have chosen from "a whole area of eligible men of the right colors and the right professions." Instead, she has fallen in love with and is about to be married to Meade Wyler, a white jazz musician from New York. A shock wave breaks over the Oval as its longtime members grapple with the changing face of its community.
   With elegant, luminous prose, Dorothy West crowns her literary career by illustrating one family's struggle to break the shackles of race and class.




From the Trade Paperback edition.

The first novel in 45 years from famed African American author Dorothy West, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, The Wedding is a wise and heartfelt story about the shackles of race and class we all wear -- and the price we pay to break them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The tranquility of a late summer weekend in 1953 is shattered by a tragic accident in this spare, affecting novel by one of the last surviving members of the Harlem Renaissance. The Oval, the exclusive black enclave on Martha's Vineyard, prepares for the marriage of Shelby Coles, daughter of one of the community's most admired couples. Shelby's choice of white jazz musician Meade Wyler awakens dormant but unresolved racial issues in her family, which includes her physician father, enduring a loveless but socially proper union; her mother, confronting a dwindling pool of partners for her discreet affairs, and her great-grandmother, who dreams of escaping her ambivalence by returning to her aristocratic Southern roots. The arrival of black artisan Lute McNeil upsets the precarious equilibrium of the Oval when his aggressive pursuit of Shelby leads to disaster. Through the ancestral histories of the Coles family, West (The Living Is Easy) subtly reveals the ways in which color can burden and codify behavior. The author makes her points with a delicate hand, maneuvering with confidence and ease through a sometimes incendiary subject. Populated by appealing characters who wrestle with the nuances of race at every stage of their lives, West's first novel in 45 years is a triumph.
Library Journal
Like a jewel held to the light so that its facets may be viewed from all angles, this novel of life during the summers of the 1950s in a small, wealthy black enclave on Martha's Vineyard reveals the dimensions of generation, color, relationships, and love. The Coles are the hub of an elite community, the embodiment of achievement and stature whose forebears were preachers, teachers, and doctors who rose from slavery by determination and intellect. Yet as preparations for their youngest daughter's wedding unfold, cracks begin to form in the faade of this "perfect" family. Tensions build from many directions, ending in a single tragic event. This first novel from the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, the daughter of a former slave, is a beautifully written and very moving story. West writes not only about race and differences but about the shades of emotion that ebb and flow over the life of a family. Highly recommended.
--Susan Clifford
Joanne Wilkinson
Eighty-seven-year-old West was active in the Harlem Renaissance movement as a teenager. This, her first novel in 45 years, is set on Martha's Vineyard during the 1950s and focuses on the black bourgeois community known as the Oval. Dr. Clark Coles and his wife, Corinne, highly respected Ovalites, are preparing for the wedding of their youngest daughter, Shelby, who, much to their consternation, is marrying a white jazz musician. Lute McNeil, a compulsive womanizer who has recently made a fortune in the furniture business, is determined to stop Shelby's wedding; he is confident that he can convince Shelby to marry him, which would bring him the social acceptance he has always craved. More compelling than the main story are the subplots woven throughout, which echo and expand on West's themes about the restrictions of race and class. In particular, her portrait of Shelby's bitter great-grandmother is as memorable as it is disturbing.
From the Publisher
"A fascinating and unforgettable tale."- People

"West is a wonderful storyteller, painting vivid and memorable scenes of the life and plight of African Americans from slavery to the fifties.  The Wedding is an engrossing tale."- USA Today

"In The Wedding, West brilliantly portrays the ferocity of class, race, and gender distinctions within family, groups, and generations."- Entertainment Weekly

"Dorothy West is an epic storyteller."- Quarterly Black Review of Books

"The Wedding's prose has biblical rhythms and echoes of William Faulkner.  This novel of Dorothy West's later life is luminous, unexpected gift that should bring her a new generation of admirers."- The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307575708
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/30/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 305,431
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Dorothy West founded the Harlem Renaissance literary magazine Challenge in 1934, and New Challenge in 1937, with Richard Wright as her associate editor.  She was a welfare investigator and WPA relief worker in Harlem during the Depression.  Her first novel, The Living Is Easy, appeared in 1948 and remains in print.  Her second novel, The Wedding, was a national bestseller and literary landmark when published in the winter of 1995.  A collection of her stories and autobiographical essays, The Richer, The Poorer, appeared during the summer of 1995.  She lives on Martha's Vineyard.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Foreword

1. The novel's narrative and dialogue move the story along with a wealth of descriptive details setting the atmosphere for memorable scenes. Which details do you recall, and how do they serve their scenes?

2. The Weddingserves as a backdrop for the looming issues of race, interracial relationships, complexion, class, and an inherent sense of power and powerlessness. Discuss these issues within the context of the novel. What points does the author make?

3. The children—Barby, Tina, and Muffin—voice their young views on motherhood. What effects might their early experiences have on them as young women and adults? How do their small voices add a lyrical thread to the setting of the Oval?

4. Gram (Miss Caroline) mentally lives in a place long gone, unreconciled to her present. What significance does "Xanadu" (from Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"), hold in literature and how does West use the notion of Xanadu in its relation to Gram? to Hannibal? to Josephine? Does Xanadu serve as a metaphor for a larger context in The Wedding?

5. While the author sketches the beauty of the South, she is at her best weaving the smells, tastes, and sounds of Martha's Vineyard. Discuss the use of nature in the art of telling the story.

6. Who is Lute? As a father? As a husband? As a womanizer? What does he want? What does he represent—literally and figuratively? How does he embody Shelby's worst fears?

7. There are historical references to some of the characters' names in the novel—Hannibal, Isaac, etc. What messages are conveyed by using this literary device in the setup of these characters? What are some other examples in the novel?Think about Sabina.

8. Shelby as a young child gets lost on the Vineyard. Through this experience she learns she is "colored." Just before her wedding, she is confronted with the issue of "passing" and her lack of attention to colored men. How does she react to these insinuations? At what point does she become clear about her intentions to Meade, and why?

9. Labels (not names) such as Ebony Woman, Butternut Woman, Mr. White Trash, The Polack, and Mr. President, are devices used to tell a story with economy. What images do these labels evoke? How do these characters help move the story?

10. Salvation and redemption are themes that are crystallized in the relationship between Clark and the schoolteacher. Trace the lines of development. What other examples of illustrated themes can you point to in the novel?

11. A wedding does not actually occur in the novel for Meade and Shelby, but other marriages do. What is the basis for the selection of a spouse? What are the expectations? What are the factors and expectations related to your selection of a spouse?

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Reading Group Guide

1. The novel's narrative and dialogue move the story along with a wealth of descriptive details setting the atmosphere for memorable scenes. Which details do you recall, and how do they serve their scenes?

2. The Weddingserves as a backdrop for the looming issues of race, interracial relationships, complexion, class, and an inherent sense of power and powerlessness. Discuss these issues within the context of the novel. What points does the author make?

3. The children--Barby, Tina, and Muffin--voice their young views on motherhood. What effects might their early experiences have on them as young women and adults? How do their small voices add a lyrical thread to the setting of the Oval?

4. Gram (Miss Caroline) mentally lives in a place long gone, unreconciled to her present. What significance does "Xanadu" (from Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"), hold in literature and how does West use the notion of Xanadu in its relation to Gram? to Hannibal? to Josephine? Does Xanadu serve as a metaphor for a larger context in The Wedding?

5. While the author sketches the beauty of the South, she is at her best weaving the smells, tastes, and sounds of Martha's Vineyard. Discuss the use of nature in the art of telling the story.

6. Who is Lute? As a father? As a husband? As a womanizer? What does he want? What does he represent--literally and figuratively? How does he embody Shelby's worst fears?

7. There are historical references to some of the characters' names in the novel--Hannibal, Isaac, etc. What messages are conveyed by using this literary device in the setup of these characters? What are some other examples in the novel? Think about Sabina.

8. Shelby asa young child gets lost on the Vineyard. Through this experience she learns she is "colored." Just before her wedding, she is confronted with the issue of "passing" and her lack of attention to colored men. How does she react to these insinuations? At what point does she become clear about her intentions to Meade, and why?

9. Labels (not names) such as Ebony Woman, Butternut Woman, Mr. White Trash, The Polack, and Mr. President, are devices used to tell a story with economy. What images do these labels evoke? How do these characters help move the story?

10. Salvation and redemption are themes that are crystallized in the relationship between Clark and the schoolteacher. Trace the lines of development. What other examples of illustrated themes can you point to in the novel?

11. A wedding does not actually occur in the novel for Meade and Shelby, but other marriages do. What is the basis for the selection of a spouse? What are the expectations? What are the factors and expectations related to your selection of a spouse?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Read

    I had to read this book for a Gender Studies class. For educational purposes, this book is great to explore the dynamics between the characters and the relationships in the book.

    Is a great example of life for African Americans prior to the civil rights movement, but also shows the amount of success that these families experience despite the amount of prejudice and racism throughout their lives.

    Good, quick read (done in a few days). Contains a lot of characters and character description so it moves quickly.

    Dorothy West also gives good insight to the prejudice within the African American community of those who are different- especially with the use of "light-skinned" vs "dark-skinned" vs white.

    Very interesting read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    Thought-provoking

    Dorothy West put so much thought into every word. A lesson in African-American history: How do African-Americans perceive themselves AND each other?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2001

    Excellent!

    'The Wedding' is an accurate depiction of our legacy of colonization! I smiled as I read the story because it brought back memories of my island home. The prejudices that colonization has spawned are as prevalent there as here and everywhere else that came under its rule. I enjoyed the story....it was like sitting at my grandmother's feet listening to her as she told about the past...the sadness and the victories and the slight nudge to remind me that the freedom that I am enjoying now came about through the sweat and blood shed by my ancestors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    This book is average

    The book was a littel slow moving at first. I felt the author did not always transition well in and out of flashbacks. The topic surrounding prejudices within black community is always an interesting topic to address and discuss. Thebook wasn't great but it was not bad either. Overall it was an Ok book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2004

    Excellent and Memorable Book

    I read this book several years ago, but as I watch the TV movie based on the book, I can see the words coming up off of the page. The vivid reality of this story makes it a must read for everyone. This book should be added the National High School suggested reading list.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2011

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