“One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work.” – Gloria Naylor
Born in New York City on this date in 1950, Naylor was a professor and novelist best known for The Women of Brewster Place and Mama Day. She died from a heart attack in 2016.
The daughter of sharecroppers from Mississippi who moved to New York to seek a better life, she grew up in Harlem and became the first member of her family to graduate from high school and attend college. Even though Naylor's mother had little education, she loved to read, and encouraged her daughter to read and keep a journal. Naylor started writing as a teenager, filling countless notebooks with her stories, poems and observations that formed the basis for her later writing.
While a student at Brooklyn College, she became immersed in the works of African-American female authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison and began writing stories centered on the lives of African-American women. That led to her first novel, The Women of Brewster Place, which won the National Book Award for Best First Novel.
A teacher as well as writer, Naylor encouraged young writers to share their own life stories as a way to begin writing. “Not only is your story worth telling,” she advised, “but it can be told in words so painstakingly eloquent that it becomes a song.”
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