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The semiautobiographical Caribbean novel that explores shifting race relations in early twentieth-century colonial Martinique, with a foreword by Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau
A Penguin Classic
Following in the tradition of Richard Wright's Black Boy, Joseph Zobel's semiautobiographical 1950 novel Black Shack Alley chronicles the coming-of-age of José, a young boy grappling with issues of power and identity in colonial Martinique. As José transitions from childhood to young adulthood and from rural plantations to urban Fort-de-France on a quest for upward mobility, he bears witness to and struggles against the various manifestations of white supremacy, both subtle and overt, that will alter the course of his life. His ally in this struggle is his grandmother, M'man Tine, who fights her own weariness to release at least one child from the plantation village, a dirt street lined with the shacks of sugarcane workers. Zobel's masterpiece, the basis for the award-winning film Sugar Cane Alley directed by Euzhan Palcy, is a powerful testament to twentieth-century life in Martinique, with a foreword by award-winning Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau.
About the Author
Joseph Zobel was born in 1915 in Petit-Bourg, Martinique. He has published many collections of stories and a volume of verse, Incantation pour un retour au pays natal. His novel La fête à Paris is the continuation of La rue cases-nègres (translated as Black Shack Alley). A noted poet and a gifted sculptor as well as a writer, Zobel retired to a small village in southern France in 1974 and died in 2006.
Foreword Author Bio: Born in Martinique, Patrick Chamoiseau is the author of Slave Old Man (2018), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction and was an Editor's Choice of The New York Times Book Review, and Texaco (1998), which won the Prix Goncourt and was a New York Times Notable Book, among other works.
Translator Author Bio: Keith Q. Warner, professor of French and Caribbean studies at George Mason University, is a native of Trinidad. He is author of Kaiso: The Trinidad Calypso and editor of Critical Perspectives on Léon-Gontran Damas.
"Zobel relays José’s pain and frustration in measured, matter-of-fact prose. This perfectly captures the education of an outsider in the shadow of colonization."