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Minding Ben: Book summary and reviews of Minding Ben by Victoria Brown

Minding Ben

A Novel

by Victoria Brown

Minding Ben
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • Published in USA  Apr 2011
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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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Reader Reviews

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Sherri A. (westbrook, ct)

minding Ben
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...!

Teresa C. (Pickerington, OH)

Minding Ben
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!

La Deana R. (Norman, OK)

Minding Ben by Victoria Brown
Victoria Brown's novel, Minding Ben, was a joy to read. I enjoyed reading about the young Grace's journey from the island of Trinidad to her life in New York City. Arriving in New York City in the late 1980's, merely 16 years old, Grace manages to carve a life for herself as a nanny to the rich as a step toward her own life goals. This book reminds me of The Help, in that it allows for a long look into the treatment of "the help" and the interactions between the different nannies as well as the relationship between the employer and employee. Beautifully written, fully engaging and with characters you want to cheer on, this book is for anyone who wants a refreshing change.

Robin F. (Tucson, AZ)

a captivating read
This first novel by Victoria Brown is not just a good read, but it holds your attention throughout the entire book. I immediately became caught up in the life and experiences of 16 year old Grace Caton who came from Trinidad to NYC to find employment as a nanny (or child-care worker), but also to further her education because she had a life vision. It is clear that Grace is much more mature than one would expect. She is faced with unusual situations with friends and relatives that make promises they won't keep and they also try to take advantage of her regularly. If is often just a struggle for Grace to find a safe place to spend the night in Brooklyn. She does find a few people who protect her. However, Grace is always able to have a positive outcome. She's a delightful woman and I hope Victoria will give us more of her as she moves through life.

Barbara B. (Alta Loma, CA)

A Multicultural Gem
Minding Ben is so much more than another "Nanny Diaries" novel. For me, it read as a serious story about a young woman, from Trinidad, living in America & struggling to find her place.
Grace is very strong & it was easy to forget that she was 16 years old. I loved her determination to make it work.
I really liked her friends & found myself pulling for them. Miriam & Sol seemed to be over the top & I didn't care what happened to them.
I feel as though this book would make a good choice for book clubs, as there are a lot of social issues to discuss.

Susan S. (Middlebury, Connecticut)

Minding Ben by Victoria Brown
This is not a frivolous beach read like The Nanny Diaries. Minding Ben is a far more substantial novel, full of prejudice and the injustices experienced by any group of people who find themselves in the position of the "underdog".

The dialect was a distraction at times but was necessary for authenticity.
The main characters were well fleshed out, and if the character of Grace is partly autobiographical, then I take my hat off to Victoria Brown.

A good read.

...42 more reader reviews

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More Information

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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