1. If she had seen Ben, nothing would have made her believe that practically every apartment contained a family, a Bible, and a dream that one day enough could be scraped from those meager Friday night paychecks to make Brewster Place a distant memory.

The third-person narrator of the novel expresses this thought in the “Kiswana Browne” chapter, as Kiswana’s mother is approaching Brewster Place for the first time. The thought exemplifies the combination of hope and frustration that defines the lives of Brewster Place’s residents. Ben has lived in Brewster Place longer that any other resident, and he is also the first African-American to have lived in the community. As such, Ben, whose life has deteriorated into a series of drunken stupors, embodies Brewster Place’s deteriorated condition perhaps better than any other resident. His story, like the story of Brewster Place, is more complicated than what is evident on the surface. Despite his alcoholism, Ben is a decent man who has endured more than his fair share of tragedy.