THE WEDDING by Dorothy West


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 Now in her 80s, West--founder of the Harlem Renaissance magazine Challenge and author of a novel and many short stories- -checks in with this pleasant if scattershot tale of the black bourgeoisie in a Martha's Vineyard community called the Oval. It is 1953, and Shelby Coles is preparing to marry a white jazz musician, and the Oval's inhabitants are dismayed that someone ``who could have had her pick of the best of breed in her own race'' would choose to marry outside of it. West then recounts the Coles family history, most of which is palatable but irrelevant. Once Shelby got lost, and, because of her light skin, the people who found her had trouble realizing that she was the child being sought. So one woman asked her point-blank whether she was ``colored,'' and Shelby responded, ``I don't know.'' Shelby's sister, Liz, has married a dark-skinned doctor and given birth to an equally dark daughter, who is spurned by their light-skinned grandmother. Shelby and Liz's father has had an ongoing affair with a woman for many years while keeping up appearances with his wife, but, about to turn 40, his mistress has decided to marry someone else. Another island-dweller, Lute McNeil, who has had three daughters with three different white women, has decided that he should be the one to marry Shelby, although his reasons are never clear beyond a vague desire to be a legitimate part of the Oval. These stories, full of interesting detail, work hard at interpreting racial politics, but they are all cause and no effect. When Shelby finally agrees to meet Lute the night before her wedding, there is little sense that it is a result of earlier being chewed out by her father for not having seriously considered black men as potential partners, and in turn the tragedy that follows seems random. Although written with the sure hand of a practiced short-story writer, this doesn't achieve the resonance of a deeply layered novel. (Book-of-the-Month/Quality Paperback Book clubs featured selections)

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-47143-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994


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