Seven separate stories that tell the tales of seven different African-American women comprise the Gloria Naylor novel, The Women of Brewster Place. All seven of the women move to the street in New York City's Queens that is separated by a wall. Mattie Michael, Etta Johnson and Lucielia Turner all move to Brewster Place from rural Tennessee. Kiswana Browne escapes her middle class roots and domineering parents, while Cora Lee adores babies but can't deal with them once they grow up. Lorraine and Teresa are a lesbian couple who seem misplaced in their surroundings.
Mattie saves her money for 30 years and is finally able to buy a house in Tennessee, but when her son, Basil, jumps bail, she loses the house and moves to Brewster Place. Etta has attached herself to a series of "rising black star(s)," but she arrives at Brewster Place alone and on the hunt for yet another man. Ciel, who had known Mattie in Tennessee, struggles with her family life: Her boyfriend leaves her, her daughter dies in a tragic accident, and Ciel gives up hope.
Kiswana's parents' visit is marred by arguments, but in the end, she realizes just how similar she is to her mother. Cora's life has always been filled with babies and "shadows"--men who spend the night but rarely stay longer. She finally sees the light and promises herself that she will becme a better mother to her children, but she suffers a relapse in the endl. Following a quarrel with Teresa, Lorraine is attacked and raped by six neighborhood teens; later, she mistakenly kills her best friend, Ben, with a brick from the wall.
In the end, Kiswana's block party brings the women together and the wall that separates Brewster Place from the rest of the neighborhood is torn down. Or is it?