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Other People's Skin: Four Novellas

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Tracy Price-Thompson

InOther People's Skin, Tracy Price-Thompson and TaRessa Stovall, along with fellow authors Elizabeth Atkins and Desiree Cooper, take on one of the most controversial topics within the African-American community: the self-hatred caused by intra-racial … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Tracy Price-Thompson
Publisher: Atria
1 review about Other People's Skin: Four Novellas

Mellow Yellow, Brown Stick-a-Round, Black Stay Back

  • Mar 1, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+1
Other People's Skin edited by Tracy Price-Thompson and TaRessa Stovall, is a collection of four novellas with stories by the editors along with authors Elizabeth Atkins and Desiree Cooper. These stories explore the issue of intra-racial/skin color issues in the Black community.

The first story, "My People, My People by Stovall" was my favorite. Carmella Daley, an advertising executive, confronts intra-racial issues when her company's top client, Helena Booker, a dark-skinned woman rejects a dark-skinned model for an ad campaign for her company. Carmella immediately recognizes the self-hate issue and suddenly she is confronted with other issues of intra-racial issues. The high school girl she mentors will not wear a red dress to her prom because she has gotten the message dark-skinned women should not wear bright colors. The fine light-skinned photographer down the hall challenges Carmella's own preference for dark-skinned men and her own issues about hair passed down from her mother are confronted. An encounter with an elderly ghostlike professor and an African shop is the brainstorm for the campaign of Carmella's life; a campaign to stamp out the Willie Lynch hatred in the Black race. Rating: 4.0

In the title piece, "Other People's Skin" by Price-Thompson, Euleatha LeMoyne is living in 1970s Louisiana, a dark-skinned child born to a light-skinned Creole family. Life has been hell for Euleatha; treated like Cinderella, despised by her mother and older sister with little interference from her weak father. Her great-grandmother, Ma'Dear who tried to teach her to love despite her pain, is now dead and Eulie is more alone than ever. Just as she prepares to leave home, she is propelled back in time that is a cross between the Octavia Butler's Kindred and John Updike's Brazil. Euleatha finds her skin color and the skin color of those she knew to be reversed during the slavery era. The tables are turned and getting back home becomes a lesson in humility, compassion and fortitude. Thompson-Price's talent for using compelling literary devices is very much evident. Rating: 3.5

"New Birth" by Desiree Cooper finds class and color in conflict. Catherine Rollins, a highly educated and sought after attorney is also light-skinned and privileged. Her maid, Lettie Greene, is a dark-skinned woman who once had dreams for herself and her son, who is now in prison. Each of the women have preconceived notions about the other. Lettie remembers her mother's admonition to never trust "redbones" while her memory is fresh that a biracial kid fingered her son for a crime he did not do. Catherine has memories of low-income dark children's jealousy. A crisis and a memory from the past arises which brings these two woman from diverse backgrounds together. Rating: 3.0

Dahlia Jennings, a biracial college student tries to find out where she fits in on her campus in "Take it Off!" Dahlia is a study in contrasts. Her blue eyes and white features belie her father's heritage, yet she wears her blonde hair in a braided style...under a hat. She has a Black best friend, a Black boyfriend who is the BSU president, and once belonged to the organization herself but quit to work on the school newspaper. Her classmates and professors do not know she is a woman of color. She is the butt of verbal attacks from other black women on campus and labeled a sell-out. Her boyfriend is pressuring her to come out and declare her blackness. Dahlia just wants to be herself. But who exactly is Dahlia? For her, things are not always black and white. Rating: 3.5

In fiction, authors anxious to appease their readers can show a tendency to over-dramatize conflict for entertainment purposes. In that vein, I think some of the authors tended to paint characters as one-dimensional. For example, the dialogue between Catherine and Lettie, in New Birth was extreme and over-the-top. The racist stereotypes portrayed became more caricature than characterization. While I have heard of grandparents and other family members mistreating a child because she/he is darker, I found it hard to swallow a mother openly disdaining her own daughter in the face of the community as was done to Euleatha in OPS. Fans of these authors, however, will be pleased with this offering. While these entertaining stories about color issues might spark a dialogue about the pervading issue of colorism in our community, if Black women are looking for a body of literature to truly address the topic, they might want to turn to the number of nonfiction titles that are on the market.

Dera Williams
APOOO BookClub

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