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  • Virago

The Wedding

Dorothy West

5 Reviews

Rated 0

Virago Modern Classics, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

Long out of print, this incredible novel by the last surviving writer of the Harlem Renaissance, deserves to be discovered by a new generation of readers. With a new introduction by Diana Evans, author of ORDINARY PEOPLE.

With a new introduction by DIANA EVANS

'Timelessly cinematic, with painterly visual descriptions and pitch-perfect dialogue that ranges across class, region, race, age, and gender' Emma Garman, Paris Review


Set on a 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 their 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 Mead 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.

Not just the story of one wedding, but of many, this compelling story offers insights into issues of race, prejudice and identity while maintaining its firm belief in the compensatory power of love.

Through a delicate interweaving of past and present, North and South, black and white, THE WEDDING unfolds outward from a single isolated time and place until it embraces five generations of an extraordinary American family. It is an audacious accomplishment, a monumental history of the rise of a black middle class, written by a writer who lived it. Wise, heartfelt, and shattering, it is Dorothy West's crowning achievement.

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Praise for The Wedding

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

  • West published her second novel, The Wedding (1995), at the age of 87. It received an ecstatic reaction ... Set on the Vineyard on a single summer weekend, The Wedding is narrated by an irresistibly droll omniscient voice that veers across centuries to trace the knotty, reverberating heritage of an affluent African American family ... timelessly cinematic, with painterly visual descriptions and pitch-perfect dialogue that ranges across class, region, race, age, and gender - PAris Review

  • 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 ... Through the ancestral histories of the Coles family, West 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 ... a triumph. - Publisher's Weekly

  • You have only to read the first page to know that you are in the hands of a writer, pure and simple. At the end, it's as though we've been invited not so much to a wedding as to a full-scale opera, only to find that one great artist is belting out all the parts. She brings down the house - New York Times

  • 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

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Dorothy West

Dorothy West's career spans eight decades. A leading light of the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1930s, she founded literary magazines Challenge and New Challenge. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies of 20th century African-American fiction. She died in 1998

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