One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex
by Marita Golden (Author)
"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. 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 there. I've told you don't play 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.
Marita Golden has written a fascinating and frustrating book.
- Earl Ofari Hutchinson
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 African American Studies, Smith College, and editor of Burning All Illusions: Writings from “The Nation” on Race (1866–2002)
Marita Golden has written both fiction and nonfiction in a professional career that spans more than thirty years, Marita Golden has distinguished herself as a novelist, essayist, teacher of writing and literary institution builder. As a teacher of writing, Marita Golden has held appointments at George Mason University, and Virginia Commonwealth University, where she served as a member of the MFA Graduate Creative Writing programs. She has also taught at Emerson College, The University of Lagos (Nigeria), Roxbury Community College, and American University.
Marita Golden has lectured on the topic of literature, women’s studies, African American Studies and African American literature nationally and internationally. She has read from her work and held writer-in-residence positions at many schools, including Brandeis University, Hampton University, Simmons College, Columbia College, William and Mary, Old Dominion University and Howard University. She has also been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and has appeared on ABC’s Primetime Live. Articles and essays by Marita Golden have appeared in Essence Magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Marita Golden founded and served as the first president of the Washington, D.C. based African American Writers Guild. Since 1990 she has headed the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, which presents the nation’s only national fiction award for college writers of African descent and an annual summer writer’s workshop for Black writers, Hurston/Wright Writers’ Week, as well as the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for published Black writers.
Among the awards Marita Golden has received in recognition of her writing career and her work as a literary cultural worker are The 2002 Distinguished Service Award from the Authors Guild, The 2001 Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award presented by Poets and Writers; an honorary Doctorate from the University of Richmond; induction into the International Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University; Woman of the Year Award from Zeta Phi Beta; and a Distinguished Alumni Award from American University. Marita Golden holds a B.A. from American University in American Studies and English and an Masters Degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Marita Golden currently serves as Writer-in-Residence at the University of the District of Columbia.