Critical Context (Masterplots II: African American Literature)
Naylor has said that her subject is always the lives of African American women, and in The Women of Brewster Place (1983), which received the American Book Award for best first novel, and Mama Day (1989), she reaffirms the importance of female bonding. Linden Hills comments indirectly on the lack of and need for sisterhood by examining an upper-middle-class African American suburb in which women are largely exploited or invisible and in which men have, in the course of upward mobility, sacrificed their racial identity and their essence. Willie, the sensitive protagonist, expresses Naylor’s belief that people do have choices in life and that those choices matter.
Naylor has skillfully employed a classical European framework for her modern Inferno and has given it the richness of many characters and backgrounds. She continues to reject the concept of “the” African American experience, as if there were only one; this novel, like her others, presents the multiple experiences of her men and women. Critics agree that Naylor, like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker before her, brings a strong new voice to African American literature.