Gloria Naylor

Gloria Naylor was born in 1950 to African-American parents and is best known for her novels that emphasize the strengths of African-American women. Her parents arrived in New York City from Mississippi just one month before she was born. Her mother, Alberta, was particularly determined that Gloria and her sisters would get the best possible education, knowing it was their vehicle for escaping poverty. Alberta was a keen reader, and would use most of her meager disposable income to buy books.

Although the racist policies of the South prevented Alberta from joining the local library there, that was not the case in New York. Gloria's mother made her sign up for library membership as soon as she was able to sign her name. Gloria quickly became an avid reader herself, and from a young age, began to write poetry and short stories. By the age of 12, she was using writing as a way of expressing various feelings of frustration. Later, she would describe herself at that age as being a "brooder, a gifted child and a voracious reader."

After graduating from high school, Gloria decided to become a Jehovah's Witness rather than going to college. Some have attributed her conversion to the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. Naylor felt a calling to change the world and decided that being a Jehovah's Witness was the best way of making the improvements she felt were necessary.

Gloria was a Jehovah's Witness missionary from 1968 until 1975. She said that this experience helped her become less shy. In addition, as a Jehovah's Witness, she stopped celebrating Christmas. This made her become aware of the "other," a theme prevalent in her writings.

After finishing work as a missionary, Naylor enrolled in Medgar Evers College, where she studied nursing, before transferring a short time later to Brooklyn College. During her studies, she supported herself by working at various hotels and as a telephone operator. It was in 1980, during her undergraduate years, that Naylor published her first short story, "A Life on Beekman Place," in Essence.

Not surprisingly, Naylor was elated by this success, but also terrified that she would never really succeed as a professional writer. A month later, she got engaged, opting for the perceived safety of marriage over the risks of becoming a writer. Unfortunately, her marriage was short lived.

In 1981, Naylor landed a fellowship at Yale University, where she entered the M.A. program. Her thesis would eventually be published in 1985 as a novel, Linden Hills. Naylor did not find it easy at Yale as she struggled to reconcile her creativity with the academic requirements of her program. However, she did manage to complete her master's degree in 1983.

After the publication of Linden Hills, Naylor decided to become a full-time writer, reassuring her mother that she would be able to support herself in her chosen profession. Naylor never remarried, but maintained close relations with her family, especially her siblings. Among her works are The Women of Brewster Place (winner of the National Book Award in 1983), Mama Day, Bailey's Cafe and The Men of Brewster Place. Naylor is considered one of America's premier contemporary writers and has received many awards. In 1988, she became one of the few African-American women to have ever received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Gloria Naylor: Selected full-text books and articles

Gloria Naylor: A Critical Companion By Charles E. Wilson Greenwood Press, 2001
Gloria Naylor's Early Novels By Margot Anne Kelley University Press of Florida, 1999
Gloria Naylor: Strategy and Technique, Magic and Myth By Shirley A. Stave University of Delaware Press, 2001
Gloria Naylor's Mama Day: Bridging Roots and Routes By Lamothe, Daphne African American Review, Vol. 39, No. 1-2, Spring-Summer 2005
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Ornamentation of Old Ideas: Gloria Naylor's First Three Novels By Saunders, James Robert Hollins Critic, Vol. 27, No. 2, April 1990
Healers in Gloria Naylor's Fiction By Puhr, Kathleen M Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 40, No. 4, Winter 1994
The Apocalypse in African-American Fiction By Maxine Lavon Montgomery University Press of Florida, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Gloria Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place"
The Ethnographer's Story: Mama Day and the Specter of Relativism By Blyn, Robin Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 48, No. 3, Fall 2002
Of Dreams Deferred, Dead or Alive: African Perspectives on African-American Writers By Femi Ojo-Ade Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 9 "Reviewing Gloria Naylor: Toward a Neo-African Critique"
Suicide or Messianic Self-Sacrifice?: Exhuming Willa's Body in Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills By Okonkwo, Christopher N African American Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, Spring 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Why George Has to Die: Gloria Naylor's Mama Day and the Myth of the Goddess By Frosch, Thomas R Journal of Ethnic American Literature, No. 5, January 1, 2015
Reclaiming Community in Contemporary African-American Fiction By Philip Page University Press of Mississippi, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "'Listening below the Surface': Beyond the Boundaries in Gloria Naylor's Fiction"
"The Only Voice Is Your Own": Gloria Naylor's Revision of 'The Tempest.' By Storhoff, Gary African American Review, Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring 1995
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Rewriting the Word: American Women Writers and the Bible By Amy Benson Brown Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. Three "Writing Home: The Bible and Gloria Naylor's Bailey's Cafe and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon"
Women Shapeshifters: Transforming the Contemporary Novel By Thelma J. Shinn Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "The Wheel of Life: Eudora Welty and Gloria Naylor"
Black Imagination and the Middle Passage By Maria Diedrich; Carl Pedersen; Henry Louis Gates Jr Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 12 "'The Persistence of Tradition': The Retelling of Sea Islands Culture in Works by Julie Dash, Gloria Naylor, and Paule Marshall"
Backtalk: Women Writers Speak Out By Donna Perry Rutgers University Press, 1993
Librarian's tip: "Gloria Naylor" begins on p. 217
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook By Emmanuel S. Nelson Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: "Gloria Naylor" begins on p. 366
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