The question Gwendolyn Brooks asks in her poem “What Shall I Give My Children?” is a central question asked by African Americans: how can I who am considered less than perfect by mainstream America give to my children a sense of their own self-worth? In a culture where being poor, black, and female triply marginalizes an individual, what kind of consciousness develops from such marginality? How does such marginality carry over into the next generation and into the community of other women? How does the power of mentoring and affiliation help women to overcome the institutional oppression leveled against them because of race, gender and class? Gloria Naylor and Paule Marshall create in their fictional worlds the answers to some of these questions.

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