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.
In a thoughtful and provocative book, Marita Golden shows us how ludicrous is the notion of ‘colorism’ and the painful legacy it has created for us all. We travel from the girl child told to avoid the sun to stay light, to Nigerians using Nadinola to whiten their skin, to Cuba, where prisons—like those in America—are filled with ‘black’ people. And yet, the author sings a song of love for all the hues of brown and for the brown-skinned woman that girl child grew up to be.”
—Patrice Gaines, author of Laughing in the Dark
“As a youth in the early 1940s, I wrote a poem describing what I considered an ideal girl, [which] contained the lines: ‘Her hair is long, black, and silky, / and she is high, yellow, fair.’ Truly, none of us are spared the marks of oppression. But some of us evolve. In Don’t Play in the Sun, Marita Golden displays with candor and insight her marvelous evolvement in the racially splintered concepts of color.”
—Derrick Bell, author of Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth
“Marita Golden has written a brilliant, thought-provoking book. She voices the rage of brown and black girls who were taught to doubt their beauty . . . and she takes them with her on an emotional, transforming journey which celebrates self-love and self-acceptance. Ms. Golden is a healer, a griot attacking racism and self-hatred with wisdom, a lively spirit, and a generous heart. She encourages everyone to enjoy their days in the sun.” —Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Douglass’ Women
“Marita Golden does a superb job here of providing an insider’s view on the lasting impact of the color complex, which, after centuries, still governs the way blacks are treated, and even how we treat each other. As this book illustrates, our American obsession with hues and shades is a particularly stubborn evil that has not changed so much with time as it has taken on different, more subtle forms.”
—Nathan McCall, author of Makes Me Wanna Holler
“In this soul-searching, perceptive, and healing journey through the maze of the ‘color complex,’ Marita Golden challenges us to jettison the mirrors of the past, see ourselves through ourselves—and cherish the reflection.”
—Paula J. Giddings, Professor of Afro-American Studies, Smith College, and editor of Burning All Illusions: Writings from “The Nation” on Race (1866–2002)