As I was heading back from New York City Monday afternoon, I saw a few tweets about Gloria Naylor’s writing, several quotes and people remembering how great a writer she was.
I immediately headed to Google to search if anything had happened to her. And I saw nothing. As I searched through Twitter, I saw one tweet that said she had passed away. But there was no news about it anywhere. I hoped that social media hadn’t killed off one of my favorite writers. But by Monday evening, the New York Times had verified that Naylor, 66, died this past Wednesday of heart failure near her home in St. Thomas.
I still have my very first copy of The Women of Brewster Place. On Monday night I took it off my shelf, turned to the page that Naylor had autographed for me in high school, and traced my fingers across her name. Brewster Place was one of the first books I read as a child that portrayed black women as a community that stuck together. It was a shining example of sisters having one another’s back and sticking together through thick and thin.
The book, which was released in 1982, won a National Book Award and American Book Award in 1983. The book was eventually adapted for television in 1989 and starred Oprah Winfrey, Robin Givens, Mary Alice and Cicely Tyson. Not only was the series groundbreaking, but to this day, the subject matters of racism, poverty and gay rights still resonate.
Brewster Place was Naylor’s first book, and it was followed up by other equally amazing works of literature, such as Linden Hills, Bailey’s Cafe, Mama Day and The Men of Brewster Place. Outside of writing, Naylor also taught at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Although Naylor has passed away, she’s left a literary gold mine that will live on forever.