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Gloria Naylor, Author Who Explored Themes of Black Womanhood, Dies at 66

Gloria Naylor (Twitter/Associated Press)

Gloria Naylor (Twitter/Associated Press)

Gloria Naylor, the author known for her bestselling debut novel “The Women of Brewster Place” has died.

The Associated Press confirmed the news Monday with Cara Reilly, an assistant at Sterling Lord Literistic literary agency.

Although Reilly did not provide additional information about the 66-year-old’s death, Naylor’s niece Cheryl Rance told The New York Times the cause was heart failure.

The newspaper reported Naylor died at her home in Christiansted, Virgin Islands on Sept. 28.

Bernice Harrison, the writer’s sister, spoke to Ebony about what led to Naylor’s death.

Harrison told the magazine Naylor was ill for a while and had a weak heart. However, the family was unaware of the magnitude of her sickness.

“She was a wonderful person, very generous, kind, and thoughtful,” Harrison told the publication on Monday. “And she will be greatly be missed.”

Naylor’s writings focused on social issues like racism, sexism, poverty and gay rights. She explored the topics through fully developed Black female characters.

“The Women of Brewster Place” won critical acclaim. It earned both the American Book Award and the National Book Award in 1983, one year after publishing

“Brewster Place” attracted the attention of then-talk show host Oprah Winfrey. She adapted the novel for a two-part TV movie on ABC. The 1989 program, which later became a musical, earned high ratings and starred Winfrey, Robin Givens, Mary Alice and Cicely Tyson.

Other books by the novelist include 1988’s “Mama Day,” 1992’s “Bailey’s Cafe” and “The Men of Brewster Place,” which developed from the supporting characters in her debut work, released in 1998.

Once news broke of Naylor’s passing, her fellow authors and fans gave their condolences.

Terry McMillian, known for her relatable female protagonists in books like “Waiting to Exhale” said her “heart just cracked” upon hearing the news.

“Leaving Atlanta” author Tayari Jones  shared a notable memory of the late novelist.

Tiffany Gill said Naylor was a “brilliant storyteller and healer” whose books put Black womanhood on “full display.”

Sapphira Wade called the loss “devastating.”

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