The Women of Brewster Place Essay - Critical Essays

Gloria Naylor

Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series The Women of Brewster Place Analysis

The Women of Brewster Place is a complex novel, and coming to terms with it may be difficult for some young adult readers. Any novel confronting racism and sexism will inspire many reactions, from uncritical acceptance to outright rejection. Naylor’s book, however, is an extremely worthy novel for many reasons. First, it serves as a testament to the lives of African American women who have maintained self-respect and hope in the face of suffering and who have been the backbone of their communities; various young readers will identify with and appreciate this aspect. Second, Americans whose lives are generally left secret are represented in this book; students, especially mainstream students, should be exposed to these depictions. Most important, the book confronts significant questions of morality for a democratic, pluralistic society; young people should explore these issues in a mature and serious manner.

The first major theme that the book explores is racism, the experience of being black in America, and the ways in which people cope with and confront prejudice. Symbolized by the wall separating Brewster Place from the life of the city, racism affects all of the character’s lives. Naylor does not harp on historic injustices; racism is a fact of life, a real force that these characters cannot escape, although they proceed with their lives as best they can. Some, such as Mattie, Kiswana, and Lucielia, seem to transcend racism, maintaining...

(The entire section is 555 words.)