She was educated at Girls High School and earned her B.A. (cum laude) at Brooklyn College in 1953 (Phi Beta Kappa) and conducted graduate studies at Hunter College, New York, in 1955. In 1993, she received an honorary L.H.D. from Bates College. She lives in Richmond, Va.
She began her career as a librarian at the New York Public Library and was a staff writer for Our World in New York from 1953 to 1956.
Early in her life, Marshall wrote a series of poems reflecting impressions of Barbados, later, she turned to prose. She has published short stories and articles in various magazines. She is best known for her novels and collections of short stories.
She was chosen by Langston Hughes to accompany him on a world tour in which they both read their work which was advantageous to her career.
Marshall has taught at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California, Berkeley, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Columbia University, University of Iowa, and Yale University before holding the Helen Gould Sheppard Chair of Literature and Culture at New York University.
Marshall has lectured on black literature at universities and colleges such as Oxford University, Columbia University, Michigan State University, and Cornell University. She holds a distinguished chair in creative writing at New York University.
She is a MacArthur Fellow and is a past winner of the Dos Passos Prize for Literature.
She has also earned the Guggenheim Fellowship, 1961; Rosenthal Award, 1962; Ford Grant for drama, 1964; National Endowment for the Arts Grant, 1966, 1977; Creative Artists Public Service Fellowship, 1974; and Before Columbus Foundation Award, 1984.
She was designated as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library in 1994.
Marshall was inducted into the Celebrity Path at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2001.
Her works include:
- Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959)
- Soul Clap Hands and Sing (1961) - short story
- The Chosen Place, the Timeless People (1969)
- Reena and Other Stories (1983) - short story
- Praisesong for the Widow (1983)
- Daughters (1991)
- The Fisher King (2001)
- Triangular Road (2009)
- "To Da-duh, in Memoriam," in Afro-American Writing 2 (1972) – uncollected short stories
- Language Is the Only Homeland: Bajan Poets Abroad. (1995) - other writing
- Other critical studies.
She is quoted as saying, "I realize that it is fashionable now to dismiss the traditional novel as something of an anachronism, but to me it is still a vital form. Not only does it allow for the kind of full-blown, richly detailed writing that I love … but it permits me to operate on many levels and to explore both the inner state of my characters as well as the worlds beyond them."
Compiled from http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Marshall.html, Wikipedia, and http://biography.jrank.org/pages/4558/Marshall-Paule.html.