I met Patrice at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival a few weeks ago. She's a marvelous presenter, full of infectious joy and that joy comes across in her writing.
The daughter of Jamaican immigrants--themselves the children of South African immigrants--she grew up in Alaska, one of a very few black faces in her school and community. Eventually she would marry a man from Zimbabwe and move to Charlotte--a city said to be 'good' for Black families.
Her book of essays is a beautiful testament to her struggle to find a place in a land that sees her as 'other.'
She tells of her encounter in school with Huckleberry Finn and the over two hundred uses of the N-word. Each time she read the word, she says, "I though this must be what it's like to sit in a puddle of dirty water."
"Years later I would learn that the book I read in high school is considered antiracist. . . . A story meant to make a mockery of slavery. In tenth grade I retained none of this. All I remember is the longing to finish the unit and move on."
She writes feelingly of the spectrum of hair and the degrees of blackness, of children and of love and faith, of marriage and divorce. And the conundrum of home.
This is such a lovely book, and it invites the reader--and, I would think, especially the white reader, to consider things they may not have considered. It would be an especially good book for a book club.
But wait, there's more! Patrice has also written a lovely children's book about a little girl whose parents and grandparents come from different places around the world. It's
beautifully illustrated and, when I read it to Josie, it led to talk of where her family came from--Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama . . .
I commend these two fine books to you!