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In her heralded first novel Gloria Naylor weaves together the stories of seven women living in Brewster Place a bleak inner city sanctuary creating a powerful moving portrait of the strengths struggles and hopes of black women in America Vulnerable and resilient openhanded and open hearted these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects—a common prison and a shared home Naylor renders both loving and painful human experiences with simple elouence and uncommon intuition Her remarkable sense of community and history makes The Women of Brewster Place a contemporary classic—and a touching and unforgettable read


10 thoughts on “The Women of Brewster Place

  1. says:

    Years ago I read Mama Day by Gloria Naylor Told from multiple points of view it discussed a young woman from the north returning to her older female family members on a southern island in search of the spiritual inspiration she needs to sustain her for the rest of the year I decided that for my annual participation in an A to Z author challenge one that I choose to read only female authors that I would revisit Naylor's work First published in 1982 and winning national awards The Women of Brewster Place details the lives of seven women living on a decrepit block in a northern city but who choose to make the best of their surroundings Written in short story format with one chapter dedicated to each woman Naylor intertwines these women's lives as she builds a neighborhood out of bleaknessMattie Michael first came north after finding herself single and pregnant as a young woman Offered yet declining help from her dear friend Etta Mae Johnson Michael and her son Basil board at the home of Eva Turner for over thirty years Johnson seeks an even better life in Harlem yet remains close with Michael and resurfaces whereas Michael builds a home for herself following Turner's passing With each passing year Michael gathers of life's wisdom which make her a worthy companion in her church and in her neighborhood Yet this wisdom is lost on her only child Basil who could never cope with growing up without a father He lives a life of petty crime which eventually costs Michael her home She moves into an apartment on Brewster Place and uickly becomes the matriarch of the block guiding countless women through life While some may see Mattie Michael as the neighborhood busybody it is evident that all key neighborhood decisions go through her and she is the first stop for anyone in search of a positive mental attitudeNaylor paints the picture of real people as she defines the African American women experience during the late 1970s Readers become acuainted with Kiswana formerly Melanie Browne who drops out of college to become a community activist much to the chagrin of her mother Yet Kiswana is a ray of sunshine to many of her neighbors who may have less education than she does and she urges the people of Brewster Place to form a neighborhood association and better their station in life One such person who Browne makes a positive impact on is Cora Lee and her eight children A single mother living in a two bedroom apartment Cora can barely make ends meet and has her hands full looking after her children Browne encourages Cora to attend a modern retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream and after seeing this play it appears that Cora's life may be heading in a positive direction Kiswana also decides to return to school to obtain her degreeWhile Mattie is the matriarch who holds Brewster Place together a real busybody named Sophie threatens to turn neighbor against neighbor Two women Lorraine and Teresa have moved into one of Brewster's apartment units and lo and behold they are homosexual Mattie thinks that there are positives to be taken from everything and her friend Etta Mae Johnson accedes with this opinion Most neighbors do not formulate an opinion positive or negative that is all except Sophie who spies on them daily It is Sophie not Lorraine and Teresa who are both teachers and mind their own business who is threatening the pathos of Brewster Place Kiswana decides to hold a block party as a morale booster and fundraiser to bring everyone together Former residents come home to participate yet in Naylor's climax she shows how during the 1970s people were not as open minded as they are now as Lorraine and Teresa are never made to feel comfortable no matter where they choose to live Even in a decent loving street as Brewster Place there will be legit problems and it is up to the residents to make the neighborhood into a positive living environment for people of all walks of lifeThe Women of Brewster Place had been on my to read shelf for awhile and while it took an A to Z author challenge to finally read it it became a positive reading experience for me Gloria Naylor paints a picture of the African American woman's experience during the late 1970s through snapshots of seven diverse women on one city block These women form the patchwork of urban society and their everyday issues are still issues that are addressed on a constant basis in 21st century living Naylor was ahead of her time with the publication of this book which is why The Women of Brewster Place has won accolades and is considered a modern classic by many4 stars


  2. says:

    This short story collection had all the makings of a book that I should not like So I'm still trying to figure out how it ended up on my list of best short story collections The first story contained no less than ten clichés And every story after that had something that I could see coming from pages away I was literally thinking please don't let this play out the way I think it's going to play out And it always did I have never been nor will I ever be on the men ain't shit bandwagon Never ever This way of thinking can be pervasive for women in the African American community so I cannot stand books that perpetuate it I just cannot But this book did exactly that Then the author waited until the last chapter to throw in some surrealism type stuff which had me totally confused I'm not sure what happened with the wall Maybe it was realyes I'm still confused So when you have all of those hang ups and can love every page and hang on every word of a book then I'm convinced that the author is some sort of genius Convinced The first thing that grabbed me was the author's ability to move the book through time My very first status update while reading wasThe devolving of a community in three generations and six pages I thought it was a brilliant way to set up the book I had no idea that it was a techniue and she was the master Time and time again she moves through several decades in a paragraph And it never fails to be brilliant Have you ever seen pain in writing? You're probably wondering what am I even asking Naylor wrote a scene so powerful it made pain visible; it took form No one wants to be in pain but this scene made me never want to know that pain If that wasn't impressive enough I realized after the book club discussion that in the same scene it was love that took form for other readers It was that love that captivated them You know that thing that happens when you read something and it's impossible to keep reading it was too close to home too shocking too revelatory too something to just move past without reflecting on it in that moment Well this book made me realize I need to hang art Because there were several times when coming back to myself after staring at the wall that it would be nice to have something hanging there Now it's time for me to create my Gloria Naylor shelf and start building my personal Gloria Naylor Collection because long review short she did that


  3. says:

    They came together propositioned bargained and slowly worked out the consummation of their respective desiresNaylor’s construction of Brewster Place’s beginnings seems like a plaintive evocation of a story that already lives in the crevices of a bygone past Or the tale of someone who has lived their years and finally taken respite to talk of their unholy beginning that was marked for a cramped existence in this world They gradually established their space and mellowed into an old age Gratitude is expressed for the years they lived the endless hours they worked the shelter and protection they bestowed on others They will be thought of remembered perhaps with great affection but their very existence wouldn’t be a pleasant reflection on those bound with them Brewster Place is a street where life blooms and endures but also suffers from asphyxiation and demands escape from its griminess odor discoloration confinement and the intermittent violence and pain For some it was meant to be a part of a journey but ends up being the destination For some it’s a connecting tunnel to something where there is hope at the end; for freshness and happiness for something better and beautiful The sigh turned into knot of pity for the ones that she knew would die She pitied them because she refused to pity herself and to think that she too would have to die here on this crowded street because there just wasn’t enough left for her to do it all againFor Mattie Michael Brewster Place was an impermanent shelter which turned into a permanent one Mattie never actively looks for an escape towards something else Because there wasn’t enough left for her to do it all again she seems to be fiercely guarding whatever was left of others; Etta Ciel her son Basil Perhaps because her own splintered life is not mendable she is very uick to discern any fissures that might erupt in the lives of those around her Mattie’s attitudes and responses are almost prophetic She can intuitively sense a calamity Etta Mae Johnson is looking for an escape that would come in the form of marriage But for a woman who has lived her life not caring for other’s opinion this sudden desire for matrimony seems complex and paradoxical Cora Lee envisions an escape too but for her children They couldn’t be left moldering like her amidst stale food and unwashed dishes Babies grow up babies need Shakespeare and poetry they need fresh air and education and a life that will grow out of the claustrophobic space of Brewster Place For Kiswana Browne Brewster Place is a refuge for her idealism A dingy playground for the assessment of her revolutionary design Her escape into the modest Brewster Place apartment from Linden Hall and her middle class upbringing seems to be rather synthetic Linden Hall keeps permeating into Brewster Place in the form of ‘designer jeans’ and ’70 dollar cheues’ and a mother who doesn’t agree with the Kiswana’s representation of black identity Black isn’t beautiful and it isn’t ugly black is It isn’t kinky hair and it’s not straight hair it just is But they make me try to feel like a freak out there and you make me feel like one in here’In Brewster’s Place individual desires are pitted against the group Lorraine’s and Theresa’s existence in Brewster Place seems to have been reached after a past inundated by escapes from society and its disapproval of homosexuality ‘ Lorraine who just wants to be a human being a lousy human being who is somebody’s daughter or somebody’s friend or even somebody’s enemy’ The rasping conflict between the two women regarding their attitudes towards the group speaks of a deep underlying contradiction Lorraine wants to be accepted she wants to fit in she wants an identity which is somehow also configured by society and its perceptions something it doesn’t consider unwholesome Theresa resents this neediness ferociously proclaims her difference and wants to draw the line and secure an individual space unfiltered by the judgment of the group There is rebuttal of society but at the same time an anger that arises from the lack of acceptance Theresa’s strong avowal of her difference and Etta’s drive towards matrimony perhaps speaks of a subliminal need for acceptance What is most fascinating about Naylor’s book is how beautifully the individual stories are merged with a collective consciousness They are extraordinary and unusual; the women of Brewster Place They have all survived damage and loss and reparation has come in the form of a sisterhood where they watch and understand and share their perspectives on their own and each other’s life None of them have been happy in the traditional gender roles; they have all in some way been victims of patriarchy and abuse The peace and empathy that has arrived and stayed with the intermingling of the tales of the past and the struggle of the present provides beautiful sense of stillness and comfort And it is Brewster Place that remembers this narrative of individual alienation and communal intimacy imparts it the dignity it deserves the refuge it needs as the lives and stories of its coloured daughters unfold They were hard edged soft centered brutally demanding and easily pleased these women of Brewster Place They came they went grew up and grew old beyond their years Like an ebony phoenix each in her own time and with her own season had a story


  4. says:

    What a book Gloria Naylor has a way of creating an atmosphere heck a whole cosmos within these few pages my book counts 192 that it makes you wonder if she truly was human I don't think I've read a debut novel as impressive as this one In The Women of Brewster Place Gloria Naylor invites her readership to take a look around the neighbourhood of Brewster Place in which mostly poor Black families are situated By tracing the lives of seven different Black women back to their origin Gloria Naylor sketches a life and shows how and why these women ended up on Brewster Place eventually We get to know Mattie Michael who used to be the good girl who was the apple of her father's eye until she was seduced by Butch the local good for nothing became pregnant and was thrown out of her childhood home A single mom with no money in her pocket Mattie endured poverty and horrible living situations when one day she is taken into by the elderly woman Miss Eva But life doesn't kill Mattie with kindness Despite her love and care for her son Basil lets her down in the moment she needs him the most and Mattie is forced to move to Brewster Place Her story was probably the best of the seven since it displayed the most beautiful passages of Naylor's gorgeous writing It somehow reminded me of the good ualities of Jean Toomer's Cane Additionally Mattie is just a ueen we need to protect her at all costs The sarcasm the humour the way she learned to see through people I would die for herBut not all the women we meet are as pure and good as Mattie Gloria turns her eye towards Mattie's friend Etta Mae Johnson who is fucking the local priest; and to Kiswana Brown who in her fervour of being an activist and pro Black left Linden Hills to move to Brewster Place since she no longer wanted to deal with these assimilated niggers who are ashamed of being black Kiswana thinks she's got it all figured out and is better than the family she left behind We also learn of the hardships of Ciel whose daughter died way too young and Cora Lee who has too many children for her own goodIn the culminating climax of this tale Gloria introduces us to the lesbian couple who has just recently moved to Brewster Place Theresa and Lorraine have a hard time fitting in and the men and women of the neighbourhood make their life hell We get some of the most intimate and raw scenes from Naylor when Theresa finally unleashes her anger because of her neighbour's homophobia The Women of Brewster Place is a love letter to Black women to their strength when facing adversity I say this all the time but reading Gloria Naylor's work is a very special and healing experience for me She manages to strike a chord within myself that most writers don't even come close to Therefore I found it very fitting that the disruptive moment of this novel the brutal gang rape of Lorraine is followed up by a tempest of magical proportions that served as a form of cleansing and healing This isn't realistic fiction – it's purposefully mythic Gloria Naylor plays a lot with the theme of rebirth of not giving up on women on the verge of deathThe novel has two climaxes of destruction In the first Mattie magnificently wrestles Ciel dying of grief over the loss of her daughter back to life In the second Lorraine's blood sacrifice is brutally testing the sisterhood of all women who have to come together to heal Brewster Place of its wounds Gloria Naylor forces us to pay attention to our relationship with other women whether they are our mothers daughters sisters friends How important it is to not neglect these bonds how much substance they provide for our daily life and sanity


  5. says:

    Gloria Naylor should be included on reading lists than she is now I do believe authors borrowed from her structure of linked characters than they would care to admit I especially enjoy how she writes African American settings and places transcendent enough to be characters in the novel I recommend watching the movie after reading this or if you’re like most people who have seen it watching it with this book as a companion read I’ve never imagined saying this but I enjoyed the ending of the film than I did the book’s ending I also recommend reading Linden Hills the middleclass suburb and counterpart of Brewster Place


  6. says:

    Oh man those last few stories though


  7. says:

    Addition to review added at bottomThe Women of Brewster Place is absolutely phenomenal Of course it's phenomenal because Gloria Naylor wrote it and her writing is nothing short of amazing This is an absolutely perfect read for me I didn't rush through it because I wanted to enjoy it When I grow up I want to write like Gloria Her stories are enthralling Her writing style is so figurative and spot on your mind immediately has these vivid images of who these characters are how they flow within the story Her description and the metaphors she uses to paint the full picture are just than spot on I can't sing her praises enough I love reading it It's such an inspiration to me I want to mention that eons ago I saw The Women of Brewster Place as a made for TV movie I've see it many times over the years since its original showing I have always loved it This is another book I always meant to read but just never got around to or I couldn't find it in my local discount store I'm so glad that I found it and had the opportunity to read it This now one of my favorite books of all times I'm also happy to state that the movie is pretty darn close to the book This made me happy and I felt free to continue to visualize the movie actors as I read I won't give any of this away Who hasn't seen the movie? Read the synopsis and read this book You won't be sorry This books the 7 star perfection score from me5 GR I can't wait to read The Men of Brewster Place and the rest of Gloria's books I do recommend this author as necessary reading Addition My husband who supports me by reading all my reviews commented on my lack of my lengthy review of this book I wondered if others who are used to what I normally do may be wondering the same thing? I truly diddo love this book but Gloria's writing blows my mind What do I possibly need to ramble on about when I've posted uotes from the book and my comments as I read it I mean just in the scene where Mattie rocks Ciel out of her grief Gloria writes that she rocked her back to Dachaushe rocked her back through the grief of Senegalese mothersshe rocked her back into the womb How can I even attempt to review this? Anything I say is dust compared to this writing One simply and necessarily needs to read this book to experience the story and Gloria Naylor's mastery In a way I'm left speechless You don't review a masterpiece you just marvel at its perfection ;0


  8. says:

    The Women of Brewster Place is a powerful collection of intertwining stories surrounding the women who live in an urban housing development Through seven lives we see decades of history what brought them to the Place coming north the city isn't expressly named but a few geographical clues in the text make the reader think it is New York looking for opportunity love acceptance and social action Exploring the nature of relationships between friends Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing There's a time for silence A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it is all over Seeing the similarities between a conservative mother and her activist daughter And she looked at the blushing woman on the couch and suddenly realized that her mother had trod through the same universe that she herself was now traveling Kiswana was breaking no new trails she stared at the woman she had been and the woman to come An extended portion that I've seen a few other reviews mention where Mattie's comforts Ciel view spoilerat her child's funeral hide spoiler


  9. says:

    I fell in love with the recently departed Gloria Naylor through these interconnected stories Lesser writers leave clichés leaden and unexplored on the page; here the stereotypes of African American women's lives are transfigured into fresh truths—joyous and tragic—about race gender class and sexuality story truths that go deep speak volumes


  10. says:

    “A pigeon swept across her window and she marveled at its liuid movements in the air waves She placed her dreams on the back of the bird and fantasized that it would glide forever in transparent silver circles until it ascended to the center of the universe and was swallowed up”Really good books create a world that you live in for a while and then never forget This is a really good book Each story in this collection focuses on a particular woman but expertly woven together they make a world With awesome talent Gloria Naylor uses words to walk you through these women’s lives The first story flies through time in a way I have never read before touching down just in the right places At the same time she takes you deep inside—a place we rarely see—deep down where it hurts the most All of the stories tell something so true that it’s shocking You may think you know what’s going to happen and maybe you do but after you read it you know how what happens makes a person feel That’s the part you don’t know unless you do know and then you’ll know how true it isAnd if you’re a woman a woman of whatever color chances are there will be something in here that you can relate to and when you hit it it won’t be easy But you will come away from this with renewed respect and admiration for the struggle and the majesty of women’s lives Including your own