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Minding Ben Hardcover – April 12, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Voice (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401341519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401341510
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,247,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the lead-up to the racially turbulent summer of 1991 and Brooklyn's Crown Heights riots, this troubling and touching novel chronicles 18-year-old Grace's move from Trinidad to New York City in search of work and new opportunities, but her Sunday-through-Friday life as a live-in nanny is all the more stark when set against her weekends with a dirt-poor family that needs her just as surely as her demanding employers. Cinderella's wicked step-family have nothing on married-into-money Miriam, who runs Grace ragged with selfish demands, or haggard, penny-pinching Sylvia, stuck in a wretched apartment back in Brooklyn with three kids and unemployed baby-daddy Bo. Everyone shares desperation: Grace for a green card, Sylvia for a future, Miriam for acceptance. The language of the Caribbean sings through the pages, and if the adults misbehave and mismanage their lives, your heart breaks for the kids—Miriam's son, Ben, and the other Manhattan kids watched over by hired help who have their own codes of behavior in the parks and playgrounds. A too-tidy ending wraps it all up with a bow of hope, but the striving and sadness that precedes it is what sticks. (Apr.)
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Review

"[A] troubling and touching novel." ---Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Customer Reviews

This book was well written and very readable.
Estelle Mintz
The story has a positive outcome in spite of the hurdles she encountered and I couldn't help rooting for Grace all the way.
Linda Linguvic
I may have lost a few things because sometimes I just couldn't get it.
Kristin Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E.M. Bristol VINE VOICE on March 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
So says the protagonist of Victoria Brown's first novel "Minding Ben," an expose (of sorts) of the world of New York nannies. The heroine, Grace, arrives in America from Trinidad at age 16, has her plans for a job and home upturned, and eventually, is forced to take a job as a nanny. "Everyone reads in the interviews," her employer-to-be Miriam Bruckner tells her, handing Grace a book, since apparently Grace's predecessor couldn't. Also the predecessor apparently took the child on public transportation (if you can imagine), and there's something murky in the way no one will give Grace the complete story. From there, things only get more uncomfortable, if not downright humiliating at times, but Grace, who needs a green card to stay, does finally find a way to escape.

In books where the progatonist is a young native American who's being exploited in a first job, a typical problem is that he/she has a love interest who wants more commitment and that they have student loans. Here, the narrator stays part time with a family, who lives in a dilapidated apartment with lead paint that may be causing the toddler's brain damage. Not to mention that she can't even get a few nights off a week to further her education. So while both these characters have valid problems, "Minding Ben" is a much darker "Nanny Diaries" or "The Devil Wears Prada." It can be hard to watch any protagonist suffer abuse and exploitation, but when the character literally doesn't have a choice in the matter, it's even more heart-wrenching.

Two random things I admired. One, even though Grace is described as incredibly attractive several times in the book, the reader isn't beat over the head with it every few pages, the way so many writers do when they've fallen for their gorgeous protagonist.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sigmund Shen on April 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow. Don't let the unassuming title and cover fool you. Minding Ben is a painfully honest tale, far more unflinching and complex in its treatment of immigration, race and poverty than the usual Hollywood-ready fare, but it's also frequently whimsical and laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to the refreshingly strong and self-aware characters at the heart of the story. From a dawn scene in the front yard of the narrator's house in Trinidad; to the backseat of a car parked outside a reggae club; to a playground where West Indian, East Indian, and Irish domestic workers mind their charges and negotiate subtle and intricate power relationships; to the heartbreakingly personal center of a race riot in Crown Heights; to an understatedly magical rooftop garden in downtown New York where time seems to stand still and anything feels possible; Brown pulls the reader into a mesmerizing world of carefully fleshed-out characters, several of whom you'll find yourself caring about and empathizing with even if, had you met them in the real world, you would be tempted to avoid and take sides against them. As an added bonus, a vibrant use of assorted distinct patois and the narrator's wry, first-person account make many sections enjoyable to read aloud. This is a deeply satisfying, rewarding novel that is worth re-reading and sharing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TicToc on August 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Article first published as Book Reviewa: Minding Ben by Victoria Brown on Blogcritics.

Known as the land of opportunities, America is a place where many different people come together under common ground. Throughout history, immigrants have made their way to this country and a new way of life in an effort to live their dreams.

In Minding Ben by Victoria Brown, we follow the life of Grace Canton. She is a young woman from a very small village in Trinidad, who has chosen to immigrate in order to reach that golden ring. Leaving her home and making her way to New York is a difficult task. Her mother does not want her to leave but her father wants to live her dream. The pressure is uncomfortable, but the trip is on. She is to meet a relative when she reaches the states, one who can give her a place to live until she can find a job and set up a new home.

However not everything happens the way they are supposed to. Her relative does not show, leaving Grace on her own in a city larger than she ever imagined possible, and a place she has never been. Finding a home with Sylvia, another expatriate of Trinidad she meets, performing small chores and watching her children, for a place to stay, Grace continues to look for that job, the one that will allow her to become a citizen.

Finding what she expects is the perfect job, minding their son Ben; Grace accepts the job with a wealthy family, the Bruckner's. Maintaining her relationship with Sylvia, living at her home when not at the new live-in job, she continues to do chores and watch Sylvia's brood when she is able. Is this really her dream, her opportunity to become a citizen, and make a living wage?

Grace is a young naive woman from another country; she is open and optimistic, and easy to take advantage of.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Now a Vassar graduate, a teacher and mother of two, the author of his novel came to New York from Trinidad in the 1990s in search of better life. She knows her subject well as she, herself, worked as a nanny in New York at the age of 16, before she got her education. That experience certainly gives the book credibility and realism. This is not her personal story though; it is the story of a fictional character named Grace. But the voice seems authentic and real, the writing flows swiftly and the story held my interest throughout.

As a New Yorker I am very well acquainted with the neighborhoods she described, from the high-rise apartments in the Union Square area to the squalor of Brooklyn where Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are in close proximity with various Caribbean and African American blacks. Here there is tension and poverty and poorly constructed apartments flaked with poisonous lead. But of course there is also romance and parties and church going. Grace is particularly interested in the botanical gardens as her interest in plants has been encouraged by a gay man who lives in the Union Square complex where she works. Her relationship with her employer is a rocky one however and I cringed at some of the demands put upon her. But she is determined to make it in New York and not wind up as a lifetime nanny or household maid like some of the women who she works with.

The story has a positive outcome in spite of the hurdles she encountered and I couldn't help rooting for Grace all the way. But I just stop slightly short of giving this my very highest rating because I found there were just too many characters to follow and sometimes I got them mixed up. However, this is certainly a book to read and enjoy and I think that New Yorkers will especially like it.
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