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Linden Hills

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,035 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
A world away from Brewster Place, yet intimately connected to it, lies Linden Hills. With its showcase homes, elegant lawns, and other trappings of wealth, Linden Hills is not unlike other affluent black communities. But residence in this community is indisputable evidence of "making it." Although no one knows what the precise qualifications are, everyone knows that only c ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 4th 1986 by Penguin Books (first published 1985)
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Julia Himmelberger The extent of success of residents in Linden Hills is measured by the location of their houses. The further down the hill you are, the more…moreThe extent of success of residents in Linden Hills is measured by the location of their houses. The further down the hill you are, the more "successful" you are. The reason behind the inverted pyramid is due to the model of Dante's Inferno. Naylor is suggesting that in this community the residents' perception of success is skewed, and their quest to reach the bottom is actually their steps further into hell, with the devil Luther waiting for them at the bottom.(less)

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Navidad Thelamour
"Fences...Even at the university: big, stone fences - and why? The gates are open, so it's not to keep anybody out or in. Why fences?...To get you used to the idea that what they have in there is different, special. Something to be separated from the rest of the world. They get you thinking fences, man, don’t you see it? Then when they’ve fenced you in from six years old till you’re twenty-six, they can let you out because you’re ready to believe that what they’ve given you up here, their versio ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is one I will be thinking about for quite a while.

Linden Hills has a lot to say about conformity and passivity, and buying into pre-conceived views and standards. It deconstructs the American dream of success and wealth and progress, and Naylor specifically criticizes assimilation, conforming to white and patriarchal standards. The characters who have made it to Linden Hills have sacrificed everything of true value to live a lifestyle which on the outside symbolizes success, and their inner
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"If anything was the problem with Linden Hills, it was that nothing seemed to be what it really was. Everything was turned upside down in that place."

This is most definitely a book I'd deem a necessary inclusion in the "Essential Gloria Naylor Reads".

This is another amazing read. I read Gloria's Mama Day when I was young and probably didn't have the capacity to appreciate such books. Having read that one book, I kind of put her books to the side for decades as books that I was not too fond of
Patrice Hoffman
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gloria Naylor, author of The Women of Brewster Place, grants the world another chance to read why she's considered a literary champion. When I began reading Naylor's Linden Hills I was not familiar with her works nor had any inclination to be. Oh how foolish I have been all these years. I didn't realize until the last word that I missed her voice.

When I first requested Linden Hills for review it was simply because of the cover. I'm totally one of those people who judges books by their cover. I c
Aug 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The reason i love this book (besides the fact it is written by my favorite author) is that it provides a class, gender, race dialogue to dante's inferno in a way that easier to understand than the classic novel. The parallels between Dante's spiral into hell and the books exploration into Linden Hills are at the forefront of the novel. It gives you a perspective into the mind of how African American thought mixes with the so-called traditional literary canons...the end is sort of dull although i ...more
Nikki Stafford
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Back when I was in university (I believe that was about 5 minutes ago), I had a young professor who launched the first African-American Women's Literature at Western. It was a seminar course, and I couldn't wait until my 4th year when I'd be able to take it. And then, when I got there, it was offered in the same semester as another one I'd committed to, and I couldn't take it. I was devastated, but the prof gave me his syllabus so I could read along, and that's how I was introduced to Gloria Nay ...more
Jacqui Hopkins
Aug 15, 2008 rated it liked it
This is the sort of book that should be required reading, especially for college-level literature courses. It paints a very believable picture of black upper-class life. The story itself was suspenseful and, at times, grotesque and heart-wrenching. Gloria Naylor really knows how to write about mental anguish - there were times when I had to put the book down. The ending was sad yet satisfying.
Kelsi H
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Please read all of my reviews at!

Linden Hills was originally published in 1985, and yet it feels so modern and current – it could easily be a satirical reference to race relations in America today. It is the story of an affluent African-American neighbourhood that becomes a symbol of success for its residents. Living in Linden Hills is the highest achievement they can imagine, but getting there is not good enough – one must always strive to move lower down the
Jul 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Angela by: Jane Mallison
Shelves: booksmart
Many years ago, I was impressed by the Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor's novel of vignettes about the Black residents of that fictional urban neighborhood. She revisits that universe to write about Linden Hills, a nearby wealthy subdivision. Linden Hills is Black America's Coto de Caza, a wealthy and exclusive community where residents don't own their homes but rather rent them for near-infinite terms from the descendant of the community's founder, Luther Nedeed.

Linden Hills, and the jour
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
“The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Someone says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. Ther ...more
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strangely enough, I happened to start reading this book on December 19th, the same day that Willie and Lester begin their descent into Linden Hills. I read everything else on the date it happened, except for the last day (Christmas Eve) because I didn't want the holiday to get in the way of it.

Linden Hills is another absolutely unmistakable Gloria Naylor work - there's the archetypal isolated setting at the fringes of reality and fantasy, the brilliant riffing on classic literature (doing to Inf
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Linden Hills follows two would-be street poets, lifelong friends from different sides of the tracks, as they work their way through the titular community, an upscale black neighborhood where old heartache and suburban malaise lie beneath the veneer of affluence. Partially an exploration of the complex social stratification in the black community and part gothic horror built on allusions to Dante's Inferno, this is a novel that leaves a strong overall impression despite some missteps along the wa ...more
Dora Okeyo
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This is the first I have heard of Gloria Naylor, and her writing took me back to 1986 in America.

The story takes us through the generations of Luther Needed and his way of life, values and struggles mostly being that he was Black, and what follows from the first two chapters is an account of various Black families and their children struggling to make it in life.
Linden Hills is symbolic in that it is not just a place, but to most people it is the best and only place one should aspire to live in
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Originally published in 1985, Linden Hills explores a diverse group of middle-class and upper middle-class African-Americans, who have to a large extent assimilated the values and culture of the dominant white world but in many ways are still searching for their own identity. Through a series of depictions of various characters, all of whose lives are interconnected, Naylor explores issues of class and race, and with some memorable set pieces rather than a sustained narrative opens up to the rea ...more
D.J. Adamson
Mar 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Gloria Naylor passed from the literary family at far too young an age. While The Women of Brewster’s Place and Mama Day are better works, Linden Hills offers a look at the competitive natures of this wealthy black neighborhood, as well as its secrets and narcissism. What is so good about Naylor’s work is the way she controls the magical and the realistic, taking a very serious look at human nature.
Reviewed in Le Coeur de l'Artiste:
Rosenita Delva
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really do not know what to say about this book. It will stick with me for a long time.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: southern gothic fans, people who love symbols and allegory, also the lives of the rich and famous
Shelves: favorites
Linden Hills wasn’t black; it was successful. The shining surface of their careers, brass railings, and cars hurt his eyes because it only reflected the bright nothing that was inside of them.

Gloria Naylor's Lindon Hills is somehow a perfect allegory of race, gender, and sexuality within the black community and the power structures put in place to keep the status quo. The premise is simple: friends Willie and Lester—two 20-year-old black men who decide to travel through the glittering Linden H
Wiebke (1book1review)
This was a tough read a times, tough to follow and tough to digest. As the book progresses it gets darker and more twisted.
Nevertheless, I would recommend reading it for all the different characters you get to know and how well you see the concepts of "making it" and "appearance" explored.
Claire Monahan
Before May 2006, I would have bet money on my tendency to never be interested in this type of book. But my freshman year of college, I was required to read this for my rhetoric and consumer culture course, which put a whole new twist on my perspective as a reader (thank you, Dr. Davis, for enlightening my jaded first-year mind).

I've never read any of Gloria Naylor's other work, which perhaps was to my advantage. (I'd say her most famous book is The Women of Brewster Place, which is the neighbor
J. Trott
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
The best characters, our tour guides through Linden Hills, don't get enough story. Lester aka Shit and White Willie are poets and proud of their identity and broke, and they are humorous, alternately spikey and affectionate with one another. Overall it is a rich in its examination of personhood, race, and the cost of upward mobility but the story can be turgid.

The rest of the book cycles down the hill, like Dante touring hell, and it gets worse and worse. I found it all intriguing but was left
Marni Fantyn
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It was interesting in that the women of Linden Hills were the subject at certain points of the book and each of the women’s stories through the current Mrs. Needed unfolded how they disappeared in the shadows of Mr. Needed Sr. and Mr. Needed Jr. It was as if the women’s private pain reflected in the material remnants were the only validation that they had ever existed. And if this was a commentary, a metaphor perhaps, of how the years suggests stability, domesticity, and commitment in the Nedeed ...more
Stacy Saunders
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Luxury cars, swimming pools and caviar. The people of Linden Hills have “made it”, but at what price? Willie Mason finds out. Willie, a thoughtful, observant young man, lives in Putney Wayne, a poor neighborhood nearby. For him, Linden Hills is a dream with its palatial homes all owned by black people. But soon the dream becomes his nightmare. The residents of Linden Hills care only about “making it,” and the further down the hill they move, towards the most desirable sections, the further they ...more
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, found
Two young black poets, at least one of them gay, seek for deeper truths in the ultimate buppy enclave AND on the other side of the tracks. Some passages are great -- the wedding, the hallucinating man, the childhood scenes with auntie -- but the countdown to Christmas falls a day short of pay-day and the recurring "Jane Eyre"-like tale of the wife locked up in the basement never quite works. (You wish those recipes/photos revealed a bit more to captive and reader alike.)
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A funny, imaginative portrait and scathing indictment of the rules that regulate a particular slice of society, the African American upper class. Behind the walls of pristine mansions, racism, classism, homophobia and sexism collide and eat away at the inhabitants. This story is useful for thinking about what liberation is and what it isn't. I wonder how much the White House, Obama's house, looks like the interiors of Linden Hills, if you peek behind the curtain.
May 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book a lot more, but I was terribly bored by the story of Luther's wife. I liked Willie's story considerably, and wished that it had been only his story. Yes, the connection to Dante is there, the social critique is there. But the best writing happens in Wille's story, not hers...
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, literary
I love this book. I had to read it for class but I enjoyed it so much that I read it on my own and recommended it to all my friends. One of my favorite stories. I don't care what anyone says I believe that it is well written. I especially like the structure of the setting similar to the hells in Dante Alighieri's "Inferno". Actually the story is fashioned after the epic-poem "Inferno".
Jackson Skibski
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very nice depiction of the progressive madness for success in some cases of American's. The decent of moral when success becomes too influential in choices that serves to only look like success in the eyes of their neighbors is described in a setting full of imagery and references to Dante's Inferno.
Michael Sanchez
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
It was fine. Not as good as I was hoping it'd be, but also not as bad as it started. By the end I was really in to it. I'd be down to read more Naylor, but I'd need to get brought into the story much more quickly. I also didn't see the parallels with Dante, other than very, very, very obvious (and easy) stuff. It was fine.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. I don't understand why this book isn't more well known. It could be long winded but an excellent read.
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book will fuck with your head, but in a very good way. :)
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Gloria Naylor was an African-American novelist whose most popular work, The Women of Brewster Place, was made into a 1984 film starring Oprah Winfrey.

Naylor won the National Book Award for first fiction in 1983 for The Women of Brewster Place. Her subsequent novels included Linden Hills, Mama Day and Bailey's Cafe. In addition to her novels, Naylor wrote essays and screenplays, as well as the stag
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“The music in his laughter had a way of rounding off the missing notes in her soul.” 2013 likes
“They all trying to say something with music that you can't say with plain talk. There ain't really no words for love or pain. And the way I see it, only fools go around trying to talk their love or talk their pain. So the smart people make music and you can kinda hear about it without them saying anything.” 33 likes
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