Charis welcomes Jennifer Neal in conversation with Ruby Hamad for a celebration of Notes on Her Color: A Novel. Florida kitsch swirls together with magical realism in this glittering debut novel about a young Black and Indigenous woman who learns to change the color of her skin. This event is co-hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.
Gabrielle has always had a complicated relationship with her mother Tallulah, one marked by intimacy and resilience in the face of a volatile patriarch. Everything in their home has been bleached a cold white—from the cupboards filled with sheets and crockery to the food and spices Tallulah cooks with. Even Gabrielle, who inherited the ability to change the color of her skin from her mother, is told to pass into white if she doesn’t want to upset her father.
But this vital mother-daughter bond implodes when Tallulah is hospitalized for a mental health crisis. Separated from her mother for the first time in her life, Gabrielle must learn to control the temperamental shifts in her color on her own.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle is spending a year after high school focusing on her piano lessons, an extracurricular her father is sure will make her a more appealing candidate for pre med programs. Her instructor, a queer, dark-skinned woman named Dominique, seems to encapsulate everything Gabrielle is missing in her life—creativity, confidence, and perhaps most importantly, a nurturing sense of love.
Following a young woman looking for a world beyond her family’s carefully -coded existence, Notes on Her Color is a lushly written and haunting tale that shows how love, in its best sense, can be a liberating force from destructive origins.
Jennifer Neal is an American-Australian author, artist, and occasional stand-up comedian. She is a graduate of Florida State University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She has written for NPR, Playboy, Gay Magazine, The Cut, The Root, and many other publications. She is a MacDowell Fellow and a Pushcart Prize-nominated essayist. She lives in Berlin (for now) where she works as a freelance producer and translator.
RUBY HAMAD is a journalist, author, and academic preparing to submit her Ph.D. in media studies at the University of New South Wales (Australia). Her Guardian essay, ‘How White Women Use Strategic Tears to Silence Women of Color,’ became a global flashpoint for discussions of white feminism and racism and inspired her best-selling debut book, White Tears/Brown Scars. Her writing has also featured in Prospect Magazine, The New York Times and more.
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Florida kitsch swirls together with magical realism in this glittering debut novel about a young Black and Indigenous woman who learns to change the color of her skin
Called “powerful and provocative" by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of the New York Times bestselling How to be an Antiracist, this explosive book of history and cultural criticism reveals how white feminism has been used as a weapon of white supremacy and patriarchy deployed against Black and Indigenous women, and women of color.