National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Gloria Naylor, Winner of the 1983 FICTION AWARD for

It was through my mother's genes that I received my passionate love of books. But she was never able to indulge fully in that love because she grew up in Mississippi and she wasn't allowed into the public libraries. And so she worked in the fields in her spare afternoons to get the extra money to send away to book clubs. And she made a vow to herself that all of her children would be born in the North. She kept that promise. And throughout my childhood, she encouraged my desire to read. Realizing that I was a painfully shy child, she gave me my first diary and told me to write my feelings down in there. Over the years that diary was followed by reams and reams of paper that eventually culminated into The Women of Brewster Place. And I wrote that book as a tribute to her and other black woman who, in spite of the very limited personal circumstances, somehow manage to hold a fierce belief in the limitless possibilities of the human spirit.