Gloria Naylor Biography
(1952– ), The Women of Brewster Place, Linden Hills, Song of Solomon, Mama Day
African-American novelist, born in New York City, educated at Brooklyn College and Yale. Her novels focus imaginatively on aspects of the black experience within the wider American context. Her reputation was firmly established with the appearance of her first work of fiction, The Women of Brewster Place. As one of the emergent generation of black American writers, her work displays the liberating influence of such seminal figures as Toni Morrison; she is able to depict such phenomena as the rise of the black middle class in a manner that permits a combination of fantasy and folklore with stringent, if controlled, social comment. Linden Hills (1985) employs a magic realism mode influenced by Morrison's Song of Solomon, recovering, through the experiences of two black youths, the representative histories of systematic abuse concealed within a seemingly affluent black household. Mama Day (1988) alternates male and female narrative voices to contrast reason with faith, rationality with superstition, and heedless social conformism with the recognition of the past's undeniable heritage. It is also a moving and tragic love story, notable for its sensitive understanding of the construction of black male identity, though black women are represented as the repositories of culture and tradition. Bailey's Café (1992) employs Naylor's familiar device of unity of location; the surrealistic café of the title is the meeting-place for a variety of eccentric characters who exchange their stories, moving back and forth in time and—as always in Naylor's work—unveiling hidden black histories.