To Da-Duh, In Memoriam (story by Paule Marshall)

Paule Marshall’s short story “To Da-Duh, In Memoriam” was first published in 1967 and later included in her 1983 collection Reena, and Other Stories. Marshall was the daughter of parents who were part of the first wave of Barbadian migrants to the US. Growing up in Brooklyn, she was strongly influenced by Caribbean origins of language and culture, which in the story are personified by the character of her grandmother, Da-Duh.

As a child, the author visited her grandmother in Barbados, and this autobiographical tale – told from a retrospective, adult point of view – recaptures that visit as a quest for identity through the generational bond and conflict between two strong women, as well as the transition from traditional, rural island customs to modern, urban ways of life that frames their relationship.

The importance of Marshall’s connection to her family in the Caribbean, and especially the ancestral role of her grandmother symbolizing her roots in a lineage of black women, is a theme that permeates her writing.

The story is set in Barbados, in the 1930’s.

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