A Legend Has Passed: Gloria Naylor

Gloria Naylor (January 1950 - September 2016)
Gloria Naylor (January 1950 – September 2016)

I am late with this post. More than two weeks have passed since Gloria Naylor died, but I couldn’t let her passing go by without making a note of it on this blog. Gloria Naylor, a noted African-American writer best known for her novel The Women of Brewster Place, died from heart failure on September 28 near her home in the Virgin Islands. She was 66.

I’ve read only one of her books, but it’s one my favorite novels — Linden Hills. The story is set in a Black suburban neighborhood and is about Black people striving for success and how doing so affects them. The story is greatly inspired by Dante’s Inferno and the layout of the neighborhood alludes to the nine levels of hell. It was an intriguing read. I read it for a college class and was hooked as soon as I started. The story was a great source for discussions on class, success and the American dream, race, and relationships within the Black community. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, so I’d like to revisit it soon.

Naylor wrote Linden Hills for her master’s thesis at Yale University. She wrote her first novel, The Women of Brewster Place, while studying for her bachelor’s at Brooklyn College. That novel won a National Book Award and was adapted for a miniseries starred and produced by Oprah Winfrey. According to Naylor, the book was “a tribute to women like her mother who fiercely believe in the possibilities of the human spirit despite their own limited circumstances.” (NPR)

I appreciate having tried Naylor’s work and I would like to experience more of it. She was a great writer who focused on the plight of women and African Americans in her books.

May her soul rest in peace.

Quotes from Gloria Naylor:

“I am a pessimist, yes, which just means that its romantic has been kicked in the heart one time too many. You know, people without hope do not write books (laughter).” — NPR

Additional reading:

Gloria Naylor, whose novels gave voice to African American women, dies at 66 (washingtonpost.com)

Interview With Gloria Naylor (nationalbook.org)

“But some critics still look at the artistic creation of an African-American for some social statement, and that will remain almost inevitable as long as the very idea of being black — or being white — is a political statement in America. That’s what I embody with my history, just walking on the street, and maybe it’s even asking too much of a critic to look beyond that to see an artist plowing away. Also, what’s universal is a belief that white male literature is literature, so everything else has to have an adjective attached to it: “women’s” literature, “black” literature, “Chicano” literature. It wasn’t until 1985, when I travelled to India with a United States Information Agency tour, that I realized that once I stepped outside this country, people saw me as an American writer, not as a women’s writer or a black writer. My experience, in their eyes, was the American experience.”


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