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Why I love it
Who am I?
Unless you’re my super pragmatic Dad—name your 5 closest friends, and that’s you—for most of us, the road to self-discovery is no straight line. Just ask 16-year-old Nevaeh Levitz, whose world is rocked when her Black mom and Jewish dad split, forcing Nevaeh to relocate from her affluent NYC hood to her mom’s more modest family home in Harlem. But while the physical move is certainly discombobulating, it’s easily the least significant shift, for Nevaeh quickly embarks on a seismic spiritual and emotional journey.
In less capable hands Color Me In could’ve quickly melted into a syrupy after-school special, or worse, a novel-length lecture chock-full of worn-out platitudes. But impressively, Diaz delivers a nuanced, thoughtfully-balanced approach to the easily incendiary issues of race, economics, religion, and education. Not only does Diaz draw beautifully flawed (read: messy) characters, but she somehow manages to infuse humor—I lost track of how many times I laughed audibly—and love; not only romantic, which I’m always a sucker for, but a rich affinity between family and friends.
And I’m not going to conclude this review with some cheesy joke like COLOR ME AMAZED because this story deserves far better. Diaz’s awesome debut is a timely reminder that, at our best, we are always evolving, steadily growing creatures. That who we are will never be easy to pin down—sorry, Dad. That in the end, we create ourselves.
COLOR ME IMPRESSED. (Couldn’t resist.)
Who is Nevaeh Levitz?
Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom's family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.
Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can't stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh's dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she's always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.
It's only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom's past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?
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