Gloria Naylor: critical perspectives past and present
Gloria Naylor's first published book of fiction won her the American Book Award. The Women of Brewster Place was a dramatic launch for a successful literary career that is still on the ascendant. Like Alice Walker, Naylor has earned a reputation associated with both critical and commercial success; she is respected in academic circles and acknowledged in the world of popular culture. Both have had a best-selling novel translated into successful movies. Both are recognized as well for speaking out for the rights of women and on other social issues.
Gloria Naylor: Critical Perspectives Past and Present documents the contributions of her work to the African-American and American literary traditions. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and K. A. Appiah collected reviews that, Gates says, "attest to Naylor's important, if sometimes controversial, place in the expanding canon of American letters." Culled from newspapers and magazines, reviews from writers such as Donna Rifkind have identified her as having a "commanding fictional voice" that "at its best, it's the kind of voice that moves you along as if you were dreaming. But it runs the risk, at its worst, of overpowering the voices of her own carefully imagined characters."
Naylor's work impresses scholars in part because she herself is one. Her novels are ambitious creations often inspired by her appreciation of literary masters such as Shakespeare, Dante, Morrison. Linden Hills, for example, is an adaptation of Dante's Inferno, while Mama Day wears the impression of Shakespeare's The Tempest and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon.
Gates and Appiah make the point, though, that Naylor is her own person. In one of the essays chosen for this volume Peter Erickson writes, "Naylor's work provides a valuable test case for how we are going to formulate a multicultural approach to literary studies. Naylor's interest in Shakespeare neither translates into kinship nor supports a mode of continuity; the main note is rather one of conflict and difference.... Shakespeare does not assimilate Naylor; Naylor assimilates Shakespeare."
This unique and revealing collection includes the wisdom and insight of other important figures in contemporary literature as well as a chronology of Naylor's life and career. There are novelists Rita Mae Brown, Bharati Mukherjee, and Sherley Ann Williams, as well as Barbara Christian, author of Black Feminist Literary Criticism. These informed perspectives offer academics and lay readers alike insight into Naylor the artist and Naylor the woman.
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Linden Hills 1985
Mama Day 1988
Baileys Cafe 1992
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