Minding Ben by Victoria Brown

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At sixteen, Grace Caton boards her first airplane, leaving behind the tropical papaya and guava trees of her small village in Trinidad for another island, this one with tall buildings, graceful parks, and all the books she can read. At least that's what Grace imagines. But from the moment she touches down, nothing goes as planned. The aunt who had promised to watch over her disappears, and Grace finds herself on her own.

Grace stumbles into the colorful world of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, having been taken in hand, sort of, by a fellow islander, Sylvia. Here, she's surrounded by other immigrants also finding their way in America. From her Orthodox Jewish landlord, Jacob, to her wannabe Jamaican friend, Kathy, who feels that every outfit can be improved with a Bedazzler and a low-cut top, there's much to learn about her new city.

Most challenging of all is figuring out her new employers, the Bruckners, an upper-middle-class family in Manhattan. The job is strange--Grace's duties range from taking daily nude photos of her pregnant boss (a shock to her, since she's never even seen her own mother naked) to dressing in a traditional maid's costume to serve Passover seder. But Grace loves four-year-old Ben, and she's intrigued by the alternately friendly and scheming nannies who spend their days in Union Square Park, and by their constant gossip about who's hired, who's fired, and who, scandalously, married her boss.

As the seasons change, Grace discovers that the Bruckners have surprising secrets of their own, and her life becomes increasingly complicated and confusing. But opportunities appear in the most unexpected places, and Grace realizes that she's living in a city--and a world--where anything is possible.

About Victoria Brown

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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. Photo credit: Grey Thornberry
Published April 12, 2011 by Hachette Books. 352 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Minding Ben

Kirkus Reviews

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At 16, Grace leaves behind her small island village, her crippled diabetic father, her devout born-again mother and her younger sister.

Apr 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Minding Ben

BC Books

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Entire lives are lived in an effort to find their way in the home of their choosing, and the story is not always comfortable.

Aug 14 2011 | Read Full Review of Minding Ben

BC Books

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Finding a home with Sylvia, another expatriate of Trinidad, performing small chores and watching her children, Grace continues to look for that job, the one that will allow her to become a citizen.

Aug 14 2011 | Read Full Review of Minding Ben

Book Reporter

Grace meets other nannies who hint darkly at the way Miriam treated Grace's predecessor.

Apr 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Minding Ben

Nights and Weekends

But it seems that the story of the New York Nanny isn’t over—because author Victoria Brown shares her own nanny diary in Minding Ben.

| Read Full Review of Minding Ben

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

She gets a break when Sylvia, an overweight immigrant who lives in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn offers her a place to stay, but that place to live comes with the strings of caring for kids, buying her cigarettes and lending her money.

May 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Minding Ben

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