Minding Ben invites readers into the private world of one of the anonymous West Indian babysitters who have peopled the lives of so many young urban families for decades. Grace left Trinidad for New York with hopes for a better life and education. As she struggles to adjust to her new life - and to determine just what shape her American Dream will take - Grace finds work as a nanny for the unconscionable Bruckners, a job that pays meager wages for its demanding and humiliating responsibilities.
At the mercy of her employers, and unprepared for the playground politics within the West Indian babysitting community, Grace nevertheless carries the day as she navigates the complicated world of America with strength and perseverance. Minding Ben offers a rarely seen account of the immigrant experience in this strong, compassionate, and insightful narrative.
"Despite lyrical prose, the narrative does not develop so much as unravel according to vagaries of chance... However, Brown is a new voice with much to offer." - Kirkus Reviews
"[T]his interesting first novel is told from the perspective of someone who has been there and done that. Brown drew from her personal experience as a young immigrant nanny, and her story is fascinating, tender, and heartbreaking." - Library Journal
"The language of the Caribbean sings through the pages, and if the adults misbehave and mismanage their lives, your heart breaks for the kids... A too-tidy ending wraps it all up with a bow of hope, but the striving and sadness that precedes it is what sticks." - Publishers Weekly
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Rated of 5
Definitely a page turner and a good vacation read. But the author seems to have an issue with Jews. There was not one decent Jewish character in the whole book. From her employers, to their extended family, to the friend's slumlord...I mean, sheesh. I wonder if her editor told her to make Miriam a convert from Catholicism so that at least there would be one horrible person who wasn't Jewish by birth in the book. I was really uncomfortable with that. Ask the author...if the story was in reverse and the main character was a Jewish woman being pushed around by thieving West Indian nannies...and every nanny in the book was stealing, smoking pot, or abusing the children in their care, wouldn't she find the book hard to read?
Rated of 5
Irene M. (Ashland, OR)
I really enjoyed this book and certainly could relate to the main character. My son and his wife, who live in New York City had a nanny/housekeeper from Guatamala for 16 years. She really became a member of the family. But like Grace, she has had a hard time living in the city.
Grace must overcome many difficulties; language and a completely new culture. She is an admirable character and I could not help but admire her.
The book is well written and I look forward to more stories from Victoria Brown
Rated of 5
Sherri A. (westbrook, ct)
This book is...luscious. You immediately feel for Grace, newly-arrived from Trinidad and desperately searching for a nanny position. What so drives this novel is the strong voice; from Trinidad to the West Indies to Jamaica, these characters seem to spring off the page, each identifiable by their unique ways of speech. I truly enjoyed this book, and will happily pass the title along...!
Rated of 5
I found Minding Ben to be a captivating, bittersweet read. Fans of The Nanny Diaries will enjoy this book. While often amusing in her reflections on the Manhattan nanny scene, Brown is equally capable of capturing the homesickness and family burdens felt by her immigrant protagonist, Grace. Readers will laugh at the occasionally absurd demands of Grace's employers, but ultimately empathize with the young girl trying to negotiate her place between two very different worlds.
Rated of 5
Teresa C. (Pickerington, OH)
I really enjoyed this book. Gave so many different perspectives rather than just the usual difficult New York parents and spoiled child vs poor pathetic over worked nanny take. Victoria Brown allows us to see what Grace is coming from in her Trinidad upbringing and her daily struggles to survive in New York outside of her nanny day job. Very well rounded look at life of an immigrant nanny. Highly recommend this book!
Rated of 5
Marion T. (Palatine, IL)
The story though interesting is familiar and predictable. A bit stereotypical in regards to all the secondary characters. Similar to the "Nanny Diaries" with a bit of "The Help". The main character, however, is well developed and I did want to know more about her, where she cameo from-where she was going. Not bad for a first novel.
Victoria Brown was born in Trinidad and at just 16 years old came alone to New York, where she worked as a full-time nanny for several years. She majored in English at Vassar College before attending the University of Warwick in the UK. Eventually, Victoria returned to New York, where she taught English at LaGuardia Community College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two adorable children and has a part-time nanny in her employ. Visit her website at http://www.byvictoriabrown.com/
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