Synopses & Reviews
In a hard-hitting meditation on the role that color plays among African Americans and in wider society, Marita Golden dares to put herself on the line, expressing her fears and rage about how she has navigated through the color complex.
To be sure, this is book is not a pity party—but, rather, a nuanced look at identity, and the irrepressible and graceful will of the human spirit. Peppering her narrative with “Postcards from the Color Complex,” reminiscences of some of the author’s most powerful experiences, Golden takes us inside her world, and inside her heart, to show what a half-century of intraracial and interracial personal politics looks like. We come to see the world through the eyes of the young Marita, and the dualism that existed in her own home: the ebony-hued father, who cherished her and taught her to be “black and proud,” and the lighter-skinned mother, who one summer afternoon admonished Marita while she was outside, “Come on in the house, it’s too hot to be playing out here. I’ve told you don’t go playing in the sun, ’cause as it is, you gonna have to get a light-skinned husband for the sake of your children.”
At every turn in her life—in high school, her black-power college days, as a young married woman in Africa, as a college professor, as an accomplished author, and even today—race and color are the inescapable veils through which Golden has been viewed.
In her most daring book to date, esteemed author Marita Golden has the courage to take on a topic others only talk about behind closed doors.
“Dont play in the sun. Youre going to have to get a light-skinned husband for the sake of your children as it is.”
In these words from her mother, novelist and memoirist Marita Golden learned as a girl that she was the wrong color. Her mother had absorbed “colorism” without thinking about it. But, as Golden shows in this provocative book, biases based on skin color persist-and so do their long-lasting repercussions.
Golden recalls deciding against a distinguished black university because she didnt want to worry about whether she was light enough to be homecoming queen. A male friend bitterly remembers that he was teased about his girlfriend because she was too dark for him. Even now, when she attends a party full of accomplished black men and their wives, Golden wonders why those wives are all nearly white. From Halle Berry to Michael Jackson, from Nigeria to Cuba, from what she sees in the mirror to what she notices about the Grammys, Golden exposes the many facets of "colorism" and their effect on American culture. Part memoir, part cultural history, and part analysis, Don't Play in the Sun also dramatizes one accomplished black woman's inner journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance and pride.
About the Author
Marita Golden has written both fiction and nonfiction, including Migrations of the Heart, A Miracle Every Day, and Saving Our Sons. She is the editor of Wild Women Don't Wear No Blues: Black Women Writers on Love, Men, and Sex, and the coeditor of Gumbo: An Anthology of African American Writing. She is the founder and CEO of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, which supports African American writers, and lives in Maryland.
Reading Group Guide
To be sure, this book is not a pity party--but rather a nuanced look at identity, and the irrepressible and graceful will of the human spirit. Peppered with "Postcards from the Color Complex," reminiscences of some of the author's most powerful experiences, Golden takes us inside her world, and inside her heart to show what a half century of intraracial and interracial personal politics looks like. This is daringly revealing and provocative book that will bring you to consider your own relationship with the Color Complex and will spark an insatiable desire to discuss your own experiences with the your reading group companions.
1. What are the different types of journeys that the author narrates and recounts as she explores the color complex?
2. The author asserts that the idea of Black beauty remains controversial. Do you agree?
3. Although the book is a memoir it touches on politics and history. How does the author frame the discussion in a political and historical context?
4. How does the author challenge and interrogate her own attitudes about color?
5. How do you challenge your own attitudes about color? Did the book challenge or change your views and beliefs about color?
6. The author has described this book as a "communal autobiography." Why do you think she describes the book this way? What does the addition of the interviews and experiences of others add to the recounting of the author's experiences with the color complex?
7. The author writes of her hesitance to re-examine the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God from a perspective that challenged its color representations. Are there books that you feel you might re-examine within this context?
8. What is the significance of the letter that concludes the book?
9. In what ways do Black men and women experience the color complex differently?
10. The author has said that writing the book allowed her to create a liberating way to think and write about the color complex. What evidence in the book supports this assertion?
11. In what ways is the color complex a universal experience crossing boundaries of race and Ethnicity? In what ways is the author's journey the journey of all women?
12. In what ways does the color complex affect relationships in your family or in your relations with others?