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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A champion of 'telling your own story'


“Not only is your story worth telling, but it can be told in words so painstakingly eloquent that it becomes a song.” – Gloria Naylor

The daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers who migrated to New York City’s Harlem area to escape southern segregation, Naylor was born on this date in 1950.  She grew up keenly aware of life in “the mean streets” and kept track of those stories in a daily journal that became a wonderful resource for her writing. 

While her parents had little education, they encouraged their daughter’s writing and further study.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in English at the City University of New York in 1981, and master’s in African American Studies from Yale University in 1983 sandwiched around her first novel, the award-winning The Women of Brewster Place.  That 1982 work also was made into a movie.

She had a long and award-filled career in university teaching while also writing 6 more novels, drawing frequently on both her own life and the lives of African American women from the communities in which she lived.  She died in the Virgin Islands in 2016. 

“I don't believe that life is supposed to make you feel good, or make you feel miserable either,” she said.  “Life is just supposed to make you feel.  Life is accepting what is and working from that.”

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