Gloria Naylor, the award-winning novelist whose debut work “The Women of Brewster Place” would be adapted into a 1989 TV miniseries starring Cicely Tyson and Oprah Winfrey, has died. She was 66.
A telephone call to Ebony Magazine by Naylor’s sister, Bernice Harrison, said the author suffered a heart attack on Sept. 28 in the Virgin Islands and could not be revived by EMTs.
Naylor, the author of novels such as “Linden Hills,” “Moma Day” and “Bailey’s Café,” was acclaimed for her psychologically acute and provocative fiction. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1985 as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1988.
“The Women of Brewster Place” won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983, the year after its debut. In her acceptance speech, Naylor said she attributed her love of the written word to her mother who fostered within her an early passion for reading. Naylor once described the book as a “love letter” to a community of women residing in a typical American housing project.
“I wrote that book as a tribute to her and other Black women who, in spite of their very limited personal circumstances, somehow managed to hold a fierce belief in the limitless possibilities of the human spirit.” Other books included “1996” and a sequel to her debut work “The Men of Brewster Place.”
Born in New York in 1950, Naylor’s parents were Roosevelt Naylor and Alberta McAlpin who were sharecroppers in Mississippi. Naylor once said her parents moved the family out of the South in hopes that their children would not experience harsh segregation.
Naylor earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Brooklyn College, a master’s degree in African American studies from Yale University, and later taught writing at a number of universities including New York University and Cornell.
Naylor also founded the independent film company One Way Productions.