Black Shack Alley

Joseph Zobel

This work tells the story of growing up black in the colonial world of Martinique. Not only does the young hero, José, have to fight the ignorance and poverty of plantation life, but he must also learn to survive the all-pervasive French cultural saturation—to remain true to himself, proud of his race and his family. 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.

First published in 1950, La rue cases-nègres was inspired by Richard Wright's Black Boy. "Everything in it is autobiographical," wrote Zobel, "but the story was patterned after my own aesthetics of composition." The movie adaptation, honored at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, has been released in the U.S. as Sugar Cane Alley.

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