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Triangular Road: A Memoir Hardcover – March 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books; First Edition edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465013597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465013593
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.3 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,947,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

All reviewers were highly interested in a memoir by Marshall, an author critically praised but not well known. While praising the book as a whole, they disagreed on the overall effectiveness of Marshall’s technique. Some reviewers felt that structuring the book as a series of essays emphasized Marshall’s focused prose and unique voice. Others argued that readers would have been better served by a more developed, chronological autobiography. But the message of most reviewers was that readers should get to know Marshall better, and all hoped that this brief glimpse into her life would be a means to that end.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Education Advocate on April 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Triangular Road was a great, easy read. I devoured it in a few hours, and later returned to slowly savour the book. If you're looking for shocking details about the life of Paule Marshall, you'll be disappointed. It's not one of those kinds of books. What you'll find is a glimpse of history through the rich life of this author. It reminded me of sitting and listening to an elder who lived a full life, and being surprised and delighted to learn just how much they experienced.

For those so inclined you may even find yourelf revisiting historical events of the civil rights movement or the Harlem Renaissance. You'll appreciate the expereinces of the African Diaspora. I was so impressed I revisited some of Paule Marshall's earlier works, and remembered how much I've enjoyed this authors works. I definitely recommend Triangular Road.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on March 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Paule Marshall has always been one of my favorite writers since back in the day when I read Brown Girl, Brown Stones. In her new book, Triangular Road: A Memoir, her loyal fans are given a treat in this part memoir and family history, part travelogue, part writing process, and part history of the Black Diaspora. In 1965, the esteemed Langston Hughes of Harlem Renaissance fame, invited Marshall to be part of a two-month European tour to discuss Black-American literature as part of a teaching and lecture series at European universities. At the time she had one novel and a collection of short stories published and felt honored to be in the presence of Mr. Hughes. Always the political activist, the lectures often turned to the plight of the Black Americans. She fell in love with Paris that sparked a love of travel.

Daughter of Barbadian immigrants, she grew up in an insular community of immigrants from Barbados in Brooklyn, New York. Marshall, at age thirteen changed her middle name, Pauline, which was the name that she was known as, to Paule, pronounced as Paul for Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Her world was even separated from other West Indians; they all had a pecking order of status and class. While her mother embraced all things Bajan and took Marshall and her sister back to visit her mother in her homeland, her father wanted nothing to do with Barbados. An illegal alien, he would not even speak of his family or where he lived; he was just glad to be gone from what he called that" two by four" island. Working a series of factory jobs which he felt were beneath him and his cheap suits, he soon took up with the Father Divine movement and abandoned the family when Marshall was eleven years-old.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In his poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", the great African American poet Langston Hughes embodied black history with the words quoted in the title of this review. Langston Hughes, large bodies of water, and black history all figure prominently in this new eloquent memoir, "Triangular Road" by the African American novelist and short story writer, Paule Marshall (b. 1929). The recipient of both Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships, Marshall is best-known for her first novel "Brown Girl, Brownstone" and for a subsequent novel "Praisesong for the Widow." Her new book is based on a series of lectures that Marshall delivered at Harvard University in 2005 titled "Bodies of Water" that focused on the impact of rivers, seas, and oceans on black history and culture in the Americas.

Besides its broad depiction of African American history, Marshall's book tells her own story as a person and as a writer. The "Triangular Road" refers to three far-apart places that deeply influenced Marshall: Brooklyn, where she was born, Barbados, the birthplace of her mother and father, (and the Caribbean generally), and Africa. All three places receive personal characterizations from Marshall. These three places also capture Marshall's own view of herself. Near the end of her memoir, she writes (p. 163) :

"After all, my life as I saw it, was a thing divided in three: There was Brooklyn, U.S.A. and specifically the tight, little, ingrown immigrant world of Bajan Brooklyn that I had fled. Then, once I started writing, the Caribbean and its conga line of islands had been home off and on for any number of years.
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Format: Hardcover
I have favorite parts of Paule Marshall's memoir TRIANGULAR ROAD. Her memoir begins with an invitation from Langston Hughes to travel overseas to Paris and Germany. In the few pages I had a chance to learn so much about Langston Hughes' likes and dislikes. One of the fun facts is that he loved to eat and drink. More than once on the train ride his meal had been interrupted. So this particular time he decided to gather the unfinished part of his meal and take it with him. He carried the bottle of wine amongst his books while Ms. Marshall carried their two steaks in two doggie bags. This is one of the fun facts about the great poet. There are also serious facts in the memoir about Langston Hughes.

It is also interesting to read about Paule Marshall's writing habits. She writes about the importance of grants to an author who needs to travel far away to do research. She doesn't make writing seem as easy as skipping down the Yellow Brick Road. I feel she should have written more kindly about the task of writing. After all, new writers are quickly frightened away from the white page. However, her words give me an even greater appreciation for authors who put pen to paper and publish their words for unknown readers.

"Days--long, solitary days, weeks and then months spent learning the painful but necessary lesson of every novice: that writing is rewritng, is honing, pruning, refining, is becoming, essentially, one's own unsparing editor...At times when the work became too punishing or I simply needed a break from the loneliness and the routine, I would flee...to a swim."

I also enjoyed reading about Paule Marshall's family. She writes about Barbados, Africa and the island of Grenada with history as recent as Ronald Reagan's invasion of the island.
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