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The Women of Brewster Place

By Gloria Naylor

Original Publisher: Viking
Current Publisher: Penguin

Rachel Helgeson writes:

The Women of Brewster Place is, in one word, beautiful. The book is about 7 different women living in Brewster Place, a New York City housing project. Gloria Naylor crafts each woman's life as a short story and weaves the women's lives together through Brewster Place.

As a woman and a New Yorker I was touched by each woman's plight. Their very existence as a community is a struggle peppered with small successes. It is evident that Ms. Naylor grew up in New York City because she tastefully illustrates the hum, buzz, pace, and rhythm of the city. Their were moments where I felt like I, too, was a resident, fighting, crying, and laughing alongside these women in Brewster Place. This is their home for better and for worse, the place where they live, the women of Brewster Place.

An avid reader and classically trained vocalist, Rachel Helgeson created "A Bohemian's Book Reviews" (http://rodolfosreviews.blogspot.com) as a place to document and review the letters of the day.

Felicia Pride writes:

I didn’t know my grandmother very well. The woman we affectionately called Grandlovey passed away when I was still a young girl of six or seven. What I do know about the small woman with a church in her basement was gained from a mixture of stories and myths recounted by relatives. In between legend, there were some truths: Grandlovey was a neighborhood matriarch who tried her best to protect her eleven children, who cared for people who were and weren’t related to her, and who loved her first husband too hard.

There’s no doubt that my desire to know Grandlovey more intimately is what attached me to Mattie Michael, the neighborhood matriarch of The Women of Brewster Place. Mattie stored gems of wisdom in her pocket. She lived more life than the average person. She also loved too hard.

Mattie could have been my grandmother. And the other women who inhabited Brewster Place—a community that housed the souls of a diverse slice of black folk—could have been my aunts and cousins, the ladies I gossip with at the beauty salon, the mothers I pass on the bus stop.

The images and feelings that this award-winning novel conjures is the precise reason why Gloria Naylor is one of our literary treasures. Through language that is as beautiful as it is provocative, Naylor reminds us that great literature blesses us with insight into ourselves and the human spirit; it allows us to live in someone else’s shoes, even if only for a couple hundred pages.

The Women of Brewster Place isn’t an easy book to read. The novel’s seven short stories are filled with heartbreak, tragedy, and women who love too hard even when it threatens their own survival. But life isn’t easy to live. So there’s solace in knowing that this is a truth that binds us as human beings no matter where we reside.

Felicia Pride is the book columnist for The Root (www.theroot.com) and the author of books for adults and young people. Visit her online at feliciapride.com.


ISBN: 9780140066906

Fiction (First Novel) Finalists that Year:

  • Gail Albert for Matters of Chance
  • John M. Del Vecchio for The 13th Valley
  • Susanna Moore for My Old Sweetheart
  • David Small for Almost Famous

Fiction Judges that Year: Not available

The Year in Literature:  

  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • William Golding won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:

Gloria Naylor’s first novel is told in seven short stories, or vignettes. 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. A new musical adaptation premiered at the Alliance Theatre in Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2007.

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