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Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
Young adult

Color Me In

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Natasha Diaz, on your first book!

by Natasha Diaz

Excellent choice

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Quick take

For those out there who seem to be half-accepted in some places, but have yet to find where they're seen as whole.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Inspirational

    Inspirational

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues

Synopsis

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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Free sample

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Color Me In

Prologue

One. Two. Three. Four. Six. Seven.

Squirrels dart back and forth across the park, so I count them, anything to distract myself from how bad I have to pee. The line is taking forever, but I’m not going to have an accident, not when we finally made it up to the front.

“Excuse me?” a syrup-sweet voice asks my mom as we shuffle an inch closer to the tire swing. “My daughter is riding the swing alone too, and I’ve got to take the roast out of the slow cooker. . . . I was wondering if they could go together.”

“Sure,” my mom agrees.

The lady bends down to me, meeting my gaze with Cinderella- ball-gown-blue eyes.

“Well, aren’t you just the prettiest thing?” she says. “How old are you?”

I look up at my mom for permission to talk to a stranger. She nods.

“Six,” I say, holding up the fingers to confirm.

“Five,” my mom corrects.

The woman laughs like we told the best joke in the whole wide world.

“They’re such a riot at this age, aren’t they?” she says.

“Sure are,” my mom says, remaining friendly enough not to be rude, but monosyllabic so as not to invite further conversation.

The lady points at her daughter. “That’s my Samantha,” she says. I see a small, pale girl whose light yellow hair is so fine it looks like silver thread in the sun.

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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.)

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Member ratings (645)

  • Cassandra H.

    San Francisco , CA

    I love how it really gives you a sense of what people are going through, and even though I will never fully understand some of the feelings that Nevaeh dealt with, I’m glad I still got a sense of it!

  • Eliza I.

    Jacksonville, FL

    I really loved reading this book! It is rare for me to read an accurate portrayal of Jewish life beyond Hanukkah in the books I have read and i feel as though there was a deeper dive into the religion

  • Jody L.

    Gilroy, CA

    The main character wrestles with her identity as both an affluent Jewish teen and being African-American. The characters were vibrant, as was her journey to figure out her constant “in-between.”

  • Laila S.

    Springfield Gardens, NY

    Natasha Diaz truly amazed me. Color Me In left me in awe as I saw Nevaeh blossom through her trials and tribulations. This book is one of the greats and I will become an avid reader of Natasha Diaz!

  • Debra P.

    Reston, VA

    As the white parent of biracial teens, I am always looking to take in perspectives I don't even realize I am missing. Loved seeing Naveah navigate and find her sense of self with all her identities.

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