Reveals an impassioned author's work on experiences of women who live on the fringe of the black community
Understanding Gloria Naylor introduces readers to the literal and mythical places, recurring characters, and rich literary allusions that distinguish Naylor's award-winning fiction. Margaret Earley Whitt offers a thorough introduction to Naylor's first five novels, underscoring the passion with which Naylor writes about women living on the margins of their communities. Whitt discloses how Naylor tells the stories of these women on multiple levels and how she helps readers see that all heroines live a life of significance.
Suggesting that Naylor's work provides an inherently southern perspective—despite the fact that she was born and reared in New York City—Whitt points to Naylor's detailed portrayal of her characters' lives and her meticulous depiction of the places where those characters dwell. Whitt also underscores Naylor's pathbreaking efforts to record the multivocality and hues of the black community. At a time when many African American writers were expected to depict a single "black experience," Naylor conceived a quartet of novels with each representing a distinctive aspect of black life.
Whitt provides close readings of The Women of Brewster Place, Linden Hills, Mama Day, Bailey's Café, and The Men of Brewster Place. She dissects the interconnection between characters and places in the first four novels and explains how the fifth revisits the Brewster Place neighborhood but considers it from an entirely different point of view. Tracing Naylor's development of the theme of black community, especially among women, Whitt shows how characters move from poverty and isolation to a place where they transcend the racism and sexism that constrict their lives. Whitt also examines Naylor's exploration of Dante, Shakespeare, the Bible, music, and contemporary African American writers in crafting her vibrant, influential neighborhoods.
Margaret Earley Whitt is an associate professor at the University of Denver, where she directs the first-year English program. The author of Understanding Flannery O'Connor, she has published articles and reviews on O'Connor, Naylor, and Carson McCullers.