The Women of Brewster Place came on TV as a miniseries when I was young. In 1989, I was 13 years old and being raised in a pretty conservative family where not much was discussed. Not to mention I grew up in the boonies and I mean deep in the boonies surrounded by forests and farms.
When The Women of Brewster Place came on television, I was ecstatic about the opportunity to see the lives of urban women on screen. Plus, Oprah was in it! I was already in love with all things Oprah by that point and so I knew this was going to be good.
My anticipation was not misplaced. This series was wonderful. It gave complex stories about very different women who were all trying to figure out how to thrive in a world that was designed to destroy them. It dove deep into issues that weren’t really being addressed at the time.
For example two of the main characters are lesbians, Lorraine (played by Lonette McKee) & Theresa (played by Paula Kelly), dealing with homophobia in the community and struggling with their identity while navigating hate. I don’t think I had ever seen gay Black people on tv before watching The Women of Brewster Place.
It made me think about issues that I had never had to confront and were not being discussed by anyone around me. Watching this miniseries was very impactful to me at a pivotal point in my development and for that, it will always be special.
Based on the novel by Gloria Naylor, which deals with several strong-willed women who live in a rundown housing project on Brewster Place in an unidentified eastern city; across three decades, they struggle against poverty, bigotry, and weak, troublesome men.
Director: Donna Deitch
Writers: Karen Hall (teleplay) (2 episodes, 1989), Gloria Naylor (novel) (2 episodes, 1989)
Stars: Oprah Winfrey, Mary Alice, Olivia Cole
The National Book Award-winning novel—and contemporary classic—that launched the brilliant career of Gloria Naylor
“[A] shrewd and lyrical portrayal of many of the realities of black life . . . Miss Naylor bravely risks sentimentality and melodrama to write her compassion and outrage large, and she pulls it off triumphantly.” —The New York Times Book Review
In her heralded first novel, Gloria Naylor weaves together the stories of seven women living in Brewster Place, a bleak-inner city sanctuary, creating a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America. Vulnerable and resilient, openhanded and openhearted, these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects—a common prison and a shared home.
Naylor renders both loving and painful human experiences with simple eloquence and uncommon intuition. Adapted into a 1989 ABC miniseries starring Oprah Winfrey, The Women of Brewster Place is a touching and unforgettable read.