Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

All-Bright Court has been considered an extraordinary first novel. In it, critics have found the same “clear ring of authenticity,” in Jonathan Yardley’s words, to be found in the best nonfiction works on the subject of housing projects. Reviewers admired Porter’s handling of tone, noting that she manages at the same time to be both sympathetic to her characters and uncompromisingly honest about their frailties.

The only major disagreement among reviewers involves a matter of form. Some critics argued that the use of vignettes diminished the effectiveness of the novel. Attributing this flaw to the author’s inexperience, they charitably predicted that her next novel would be more skillfully constructed. Other reviewers insisted that the format had great merit, in that it enabled Porter to explore a single locale thoroughly, as Gloria Naylor had in The Women of Brewster Place (1982).

Interestingly, several critics note that in All-Bright Court the author herself draws upon the very heritage that her character Mikey has so cavalierly rejected, memories of rural southern life, still-powerful superstitions, and the richness of colloquial African American speech. As Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times, in this first novel Porter not only created a “rich fictional world,” but she also “distinguished herself as a writer blessed with a distinctive and magical voice.”