[Blackstudies-l] [English-L] Gloria Naylor Obit (New York Times)

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Oct 4 08:29:05 EDT 2016

Graham Drake forwarded this obit to the English List

Gloria Naylor, National Book Award Winner, Dies at 66
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Gloria Naylor in 1992. CreditTom Keller/Associated Press
Gloria Naylor, whose debut novel, “The Women of Brewster Place,” won a National
Book Award
was adapted into an acclaimed mini-series that starred and was
produced by Oprah
died on Wednesday near her home in Christiansted, V.I. She was 66.
The cause was heart failure, her niece, Cheryl Rance, said.
Ms. Naylor’s novels addressed social issues including poverty, racism,
sexism and gay rights, usually through intricately drawn black female
“The Women of Brewster Place” (1982) presented seven interlocking
narratives, each centered on a different woman living in a decrepit housing
project. The women struggle together against an indifferent and hostile
world, surviving in the face of rape, homophobia and a child’s death.
“Just as she went to reach for the girl’s hand, she stopped as if a muscle
spasm had overtaken her body and, cowardly, shrank back,” Ms. Naylor wrote
of a neighbor trying to comfort the dead child’s mother. “Reminiscences of
old, dried-over pains were no consolation in the face of this. They had the
effect of cold beads of water on a hot iron — they danced and fizzled up
while the room stank from their steam.”
Critics praised “The Women of Brewster Place.” “Even if Gloria Naylor’s
first novel were not the emotionally satisfying and technically
accomplished book that it is, her decision to set it on Brewster Place, a
one-street ‘ghetto,’ would have been courageous,” Susan Bolotin wrote in
The New York Times in 1982. “What is marvelous, however, is that she
doubled her own dare by leaving in the predictable landmarks, the
archetypal characters, the usual clues, and made the whole thing work.”
“The Women of Brewster Place” won both the American Book Award and the
National Book Award for first novel in 1983, the same year Alice Walker’s
“The Color Purple” won the National Book Award for best novel.
It gained further attention when Oprah Winfrey adapted it for ABC in 1989
as a two-part television movie, in which Ms. Winfrey starred with Robin
Givens, Mary Alice and Cicely Tyson. It got high ratings but drew some
criticism for its negative depictions of black men.
“Viewers may find themselves wondering how black society has ever managed
to produce any men deserving respect,” John J. O’Connor wrote in The Times
in 1989. But, he added, “Despite this nagging imbalance, ‘The Women of
Brewster Place’ provides a good many moments of remarkably affecting
Ms. Naylor’s other books include “Linden Hills” (1985), a depiction of
upwardly mobile black suburban life with echoes of Dante’s “Inferno”;
“Bailey’s Cafe” (1992), a look at the complicated dance of patrons and
purveyors at a greasy spoon in 1940s Brooklyn; and “The Men of Brewster
Place” (1998), in which she fleshed out the ancillary stories of the men
who appeared in her earlier novel.
Her honors also include National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim
Gloria Naylor was born in Manhattan on Jan. 25, 1950. She received a
bachelor’s degree in English from Brooklyn College and a master’s degree
from Yale University. Before she became a successful writer, Ms. Naylor
held several jobs, including telephone operator.
She later taught at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania and
other colleges.
She is survived by her sister, Bernice Harrison; her niece; and a nephew.
A version of this article appears in print on October 4, 2016, on page B8
of the New York edition with the headline: Gloria Naylor, 66; Award-Winning
Author. Order Reprints <http://www.nytreprints.com/>| Today's Paper
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