In her commentary on the title story of her fifth book, ''Reena and Other Stories,'' Paule Marshall writes, '' 'Reena' is a mixed bag technically, a story that reads in part like an essay or an article, and frankly, I've never been really comfortable with it because of that.''
''But,'' she says quite correctly, ''it's become a perennial. Women of different backgrounds and of all ages and colors find that it has something to say to them about their lives.''
''Reena'' says a lot about Marshall's concerns, particularly, ''what it means . . . to be a black woman in America'' - a topic in virtually all of her fiction , from ''Brown Girl, Brownstones'' (1959) to ''Praisesong For the Widow'' (1983) , and from ''Soul Clap Hands and Sing'' (1961) to ''The Chosen Place, the Timeless People'' (1969).
There are five other stories in ''Reena.'' ''Brooklyn'' and ''Barbados'' appeared in ''Soul Clap Hands and Sing'': ''The Valley Between'' and ''To Da-Duh , In Memoriam'' are collected for the first time; and ''Merle'' is a novella composed from material in ''The Chosen Place, the Timeless People.''
With the exception of ''The Valley Between,'' every component of this anthology is good and vintage Marshall, who is sometimes thought of as the female counterpart to Ralph Ellison. It might be better to think of her as a fine storyteller whose work asks you to be involved.