Critical Context (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series)
The Women of Brewster Place is not a typical young adult novel. The youngest character in the book is a young woman around the age of twenty, and the narrative does not offer a single main character with whom readers can identify. Nevertheless, as the winner of the American Book Award for 1982, this book has already become one of the most widely read books about the contemporary experience of black women in America. The chapter “The Two” has been anthologized as an indictment against prejudice and intolerance. The novel opens a window to a world about which many young adults only hear in simplified media portrayals, and it poses important questions that these readers should be asked to address and consider.
Gloria Naylor’s book contributes to a growing tradition of African American female novelists. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970) depicts the tragedy of a young girl driven mad by lack of affection and physical abuse, and her book Sula (1973) explores the friendship between two black women. Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale (1992) explores the lives and triumphs of four modern black women in a mode similar to Naylor’s. All the books in this tradition portray the trials and tribulations, the hopes and dreams of black women living in a tangled modern world. Although Naylor’s novel contains difficult scenes and asks probing questions, it moves readers to ponder social realities and their own relation to these realities.