Brown Glass Windows is the story of the Evermans, an African-American family in the Filmore District of San Francisco and the tragic history of their son, Ranger, who returns scarred from his experiences in Vietnam and struggles with drug addiction. Ironically, when he finally conquers his drug habit, he is killed meaninglessly in a drive-by shooting. Ranger's death causes the family, with its suppressed recriminations and accumulated resentments, to pass through the crisis and come out on the other side of grief stronger and more united. The novel is also a kind of elegy to the old Filmore District. As Ranger says, they've redeveloped the neighborhood "into a little doorway to hell," a comment that will resonate deeply with readers not only in San Francisco, but in Hartford, L.A. and other urban centers throughout the country, where people have lost their once closely-knit neighborhoods either through urban decay or gentrification, or both.
Brown Glass Windows is a beautifully structured book employing techniques of magical realism-a grittily realistic narrative framed by the spirit world. The novel is narrated by a spirit of a woman 200 years old, who watches over her elderly Black friend, Victoria. Victoria, a wonderfully eccentric character, who paints herself white and strives to be invisible, plays an important role in the healing of the Everman family.