Understanding Gloria Naylor introduces readers to the literal and mythical places, recurring characters, and rich literary allusions that distinguish Naylor's award-winning fiction. Margaret Earley Whitt offers an introduction to Naylor's first five novels, underscoring the passion with which Naylor writes about women living on the margins of their communities. Whitt discloses how Naylor tells the stories of these women and how she helps readers see that all heroines live a life of significance.
Suggesting that Naylor's work provides an inherently southern perspective -- despite her being from New York City -- Whitt points to Naylor's detailed portrayal of her characters' lives. Underscored is Naylor's pathbreaking efforts to record the multivocality and hues of the black community.
Whitt provides close readings of The Women of Brewster Place, Linden Hills, Mama Day, Bailey's Cafe, and The Men of Brewster Place. She examines the connection between characters and places in the first four novels and explains how the fifth revisits Brewster Place from an entirely different point of view. Tracing Naylor's development of black community, especially among women, Whitt shows how characters move from poverty and isolation to a place where they transcend the racism and sexism that constrict their lives.