What happens in Kiswana's illusions in The Women of Brewster Place?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe the question being asked here is "what happens to Kiswana's illusions in the novel?" Kiswana is one of the six women explored in The Women of Brewer Place, and she has a distinctive background and history which affects her view of the world. Kiswana has renamed herself, having been born Melanie Browne in a wealthy suburb called Linden Hills, which, while predominantly black, she does not feel was representative of the African American experience. Kiswana is young and idealistic, and she wishes to reinvent herself in order to better fit what she perceives the "black experience" to be. Consequently, she drops out of college and relocates to Brewster Place, hoping to drive a revolution. She rejects the class and culture she feels has been imposed upon her and dedicates herself to becoming "more black." Optimistically, she feels she can progress the African American cause by rejecting her privilege and inspiring a spirit of revolution among the residents of the less advantaged area. 

Ultimately, however, Kiswana's illusions run headlong into harsh reality and are largely defeated by it. Kiswana is aware of the privileges she has enjoyed, but, at the same time, she fails to recognize quite how much the people of Brewer Place have suffered. She soon realizes how difficult it would be to push them to revolution. Revolution, Kiswana discovers, is easy for people who have already experienced a wonderful life, but the people she is trying to rally do not really believe they can ever have what she promises them. Their lives are hard and tiring; they feel, rightly, that Kiswana does not understand their struggles. 

boomer-sooner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

     Kiswana Browne, aka Melanie Browne, grew up in Linden Hills, an affluent neighborhood not far from Brewster Place.  Kiswana grew up in a middle-class family and encountered a personality conflict during her years at college.  Kiswana is light-skinned with smooth hair and she feels this is not the true nature of African-Americanism.  Attempting to connect with her Afro roots, she changes her name and moves into Brewster Place, a pre-dominantly African American community suffering from poverty.

     Kiswana intentions are noble.  She is under the illusion she can overcome the racial prejudices which have forced many of the residents into the community through vocal opposition and encouragement to the residents.  Being so young and naïve she is not aware of the struggles each member has truly undergone.  Although she achieves some success with Cora Lee, her ultimately failure results from not understanding the people around her because she has not faced the same opposition.  Kiswana's struggle is summed up in her relationship with her mother.  Kiswana blames her for hiding her heritage, but after a confrontation she learns they share many of the same outrages and struggles.  This underscores Kiswana's bold, but naïve view of the world.