Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Women of Brewster Place

Last week Kym told you a bit about our next Read With Us book, The Women of Brewster Place, and next week is Carole's turn. That means it's my turn this week. 

Gloria Naylor was an African-American novelist who won the National Book Award for first fiction in 1983 for The Women of Brewster Place. I have often found that I enjoy and understand a book more if I know something about the author and her circumstances. The author's parents were sharecroppers in Mississippi but moved to Harlem to escape the segregated south. Naylor's mother didn't have much education but loved to read, and encouraged her daughter to do the same. 

“Realizing that I was a painfully shy child, she gave me my first diary and told me to write my feelings down in there,” Naylor said in her National Book Award acceptance speech. “Over the years that diary was followed by reams and reams of paper that eventually culminated into ‘The Women of Brewster Place.’ And I wrote that book as a tribute to her and other black women who, in spite of the very limited personal circumstances, somehow manage to hold a fierce belief in the limitless possibilities of the human spirit.”

The assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 changed Naylor's educational plans. She postponed college and became a missionary for the Jehovah's Witnesses in New York, North Carolina, and Florida. She left seven years later because "things weren't getting better, but worse."

At Brooklyn College, Naylor made a big promise to herself — to write at least four novels and at least one that would outlast her. Her fiction often revolved around a common place, like Brewster Place or the diner in Bailey’s Cafe. Some of her characters also tended to be dreamers which reflected Naylor’s love of fairy tales.

“It runs throughout my work, the theme of dreaming,” she told The Associated Press in 1992. “I ask myself why it always seems important. I am a daydreamer and I once was an avid daydreamer. I would dream in serials, the daydreams would start where the others left off.”

"I was still reading (fairy tales) ... at age 16. You wanted Prince Charming and I looked too long. At some point, an adult woman has to wake up and smell the coffee.”
I hope you'll also figuratively wake up, smell the coffee, and read The Women of Brewster Place with us. We'll be hosting the book discussion on our blogs on November 10th, so you've got plenty of time (and I know quite a few of you have already read the book)!


  1. I'm in. I have been wanting to read this book since I heard about it last summer. Thanks for hosting the book discussion.

  2. I am working my way through it, but I love this information about the author! Thank you!

  3. I just finished it last week and am looking forward to the discussion! Thanks for sharing a bit of background on Naylor. I always find it interesting to learn more about an author.

  4. Thanks for this fabulous background post, Bonny. Like you, I find it interesting to learn about the authors of the books we read together -- it adds depth to our understanding of the book, I think. I'm looking forward to the discussions next month!

  5. Looking forward to it! I'm #1 on 1 so it shouldn't be long!

  6. Thanks for the background, Bonny - I'm enjoying the book and agree that knowing something about where the author is writing from enriches the reading!

  7. Interesting background, Bonny. I haven't started the book, but will soon if the library will just cooperate.

  8. Thank you for telling is about the author and how she become a writer. I read the book many years ago, but barely remembered but, I did remember the TV series.


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