Contemporary Black American Fiction Writers

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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Gloria Naylor
b. 1950

GLORIA NAYLOR was bom on January 25, 1950, in New York City to Roosevelt Naylor, a transit worker, and Alberta McAlpin Naylor, a telephone operator. Her interest in writing dates from grade school, but upon graduating from high school in 1968 she decided not to continue her education, instead becoming a missionary for the Jehovah's Witnesses. Naylor spent the next seven years proselytizing in New York, North Carolina, and Florida before becoming disenchanted with the movement and returning to New York in 1975.

Naylor worked as a telephone operator in various hospitals in New York City to support herself as she continued her education. After a brief attempt to study nursing at Medgar Evers College, Naylor enrolled in the English program at Brooklyn College, where she received her B.A. in 1981. The next year she published The Women of Brewster Place, a "Novel in Seven Stories" that describes the lives of a group of women living in a slum neighborhood. The book was a critical success, and in 1983 Naylor won the American Book Award for best first novel and a Distinguished Writer Award from the Mid-Atlantic Writers Association. The book was also turned into a successful television special (and an unsuccessful series) on ABC in 1989.

In 1985 Naylor published Linden Hills, a novel that is set in an upscale black neighborhood within sight of Brewster Place. Linden Hills was inspired by Dante's Inferno; in Naylor's novel middle- and upper-class blacks sacrifice some part of their soul to attain upward mobility. Linden Hills was followed by Mama Day ( 1988), a novel about a community on a small, isolated island off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina that was orginally settled by an African-born fugitive slave. Most recently, Naylor published Bailey's Cafe ( 1992), a magical realist novel that takes place in a mysterious post-World War II cafe.

Since the publication of The Women of Brewster Place, Naylor has held a variety of academic positions at various universities, including Princeton

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