Wednesday, October 3, 2018

All the Colors We Will See: a book review

All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way

by Patrice Gopo

Published August 7, 2018

Published by Thomas Nelson

In All the Colors We Will See, Patrice Gopo explores her experience of race throughout various points in her life. These experiences have been shaped by a number of factors and in a number of locales.

Gopo was born in Jamaica, grew up in Alaska, lived in Cape Town where she met her husband, then in Charlotte, North Carolina where she raises her family. She has two grandparents from India. She was among 5% of black students in attendance at Carnegie Mellon University during her time there. She has been told her hair looks more professional when relaxed and straightened (meaning not worn naturally).

I imagine many people of color can relate to these stories and many white people need to hear them.

Gopo’s writing is beautiful and matter-of-fact. It comes across with ease, which almost certainly means she has taken the time to hone her craft because writing is not easy.

Her chapter about hair -- it’s different types and textures -- is a mindful exploration of society’s expectations for how hair should look, what is beautiful, what is unkempt and what is professional. This made me wonder if hair has so much expectation tied to it, what does that mean for the rest of our existence?

Perhaps the most prevalent theme in the book is about belonging. Gopo looks at the ways she may be seen as an outsider or something "other." She is the only black student in her class at school in Alaska, which leads her to be singled out for questions about race. She doesn’t feel she fits in with her family members in Jamaica because of her accent and inability to understand some of the local dialect. She recognizes that she is an anomaly in her university graduation class as a black woman in engineering. She questions, years after the fact, what it meant when a friend said, “I don’t see you as black.” She describes with rawness what she felt when she first encountered a confederate flag.

I highly recommend this book. I think people of color will be able to relate and see themselves in Gopo’s stories, and I think white people need to hear more stories from people of color. We have a responsibility to learn how word choices contribute to racism, how simple exchanges can have greater impact than we realize. And I think all of us, of all colors, need to move to a state of belonging and understanding. All the Colors We Will See is an easy entry point to this conversation.

Disclaimer: I received an advance-read copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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