Urban Fiction Spotlight: The Women of Brewster Place

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The Women of Brewster Place chronicles the communal strength of seven black women living in decrepit rented houses on a walled-off street in an urban neighborhood. Mattie Michael, the matriarch of the group, is a source of comfort and strength for the other women. Etta Mae Johnson is a free spirit who repeatedly gets involved with men who disappoint her. Kiswana Browne embraces racial pride and eventually accepts her mother’s middle-class values. Lorraine and Theresa are lovers; when Lorraine is gang-raped, she is deeply troubled by the attack and murders Ben, who is one of her few supporters and the janitor of Brewster Place. Cora Lee loves her babies, while Ciel is on a path of self-destruction, having suffered a series of personal disasters.

The Women of Brewster Place is a moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women. At the end of the novel, the women demolish the wall that separates them from the rest of the city Gloria Naylor weaves together the truths and myths of the womens lives, creating characters who are free to determine the course of their lives, embodying the self actualization tradition of the Harlem Renaissance.



Author Spotlight:

Gloria Naylor worked as a switchboard operator for a few years while taking classes at Medgar Evers College then transferring to attend Brooklyn College, Naylor received her bachelor’s degree in English. Once completing that, she attended Yale University in order to obtain her master’s degree in Afro–American studies. During her career as a professor, she taught writing and literature at several universities. She has taught at The George Washington University, New York University, Boston University, and Cornell University. The Women of Brewster Place was her first novel, which she wrote during her studies at Yale. 

 It was adapted into the 1989 miniseries The Women of Brewster Place and the 1990 ongoing series Brewster Place by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. Despite the title, the novel explores the lives of both men and women in an urban setting and examines relationships, both in terms of friendship and romantic love, including homosexual relationships.

Naylor’s other books are Bailey’s Cafe, Linden Hills, Mama Day, and The Men of Brewster Place. The Women of Brewster Place, her first novel, won the American Book Award for Best First Novel in 1983.

 (sources: Wikipedia & BarnesandNoble.com)