We asked Patrice Gopo – library advocate and the author of All the Colors We Will See – what she reads for inspiration:
As the black American daughter of Jamaican immigrants, I often write about ideas related to race, racial identity formation, migration, and belonging. I love reading books that connect with these themes and—perhaps—overlap, in some way, with my experience. Here are some of my favorites.
Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex by Marita Golden. Golden explores the reality of colorism (discrimination within a race toward people with darker complexions) in our country and the world. This book is many things: an individual memoir but a corporate memoir too, a sharp analysis and a convicting lesson in history.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Motherhood helped me discover my love for short stories and essays. Those early years of parenting left me with a life divided into tiny time blocks. I found short stories offered a satisfying way to read in the midst of those tiny time blocks. I love the way Adichie tackles the in-between reality of being connected to multiple places in this collection.
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. My husband is from Zimbabwe, and he first told me about this novel. It’s a stunning, sharp commentary about the impact of colonialism, racism, and gender imbalances on a country, a people, and individual lives told through the story of a girl named Tambu.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Is it a collection of micro essays? Is it a collection of prose poems? Is it something in between? Perhaps what particular form this book inhabits matters so much less than the reality that this book made me feel seen—seen for my experiences as a black woman and black person living in America.
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward. The title says everything. It’s an important anthology of essays, short memoirs, and poems about some of the most pressing topics of our times.
And I’m currently in the midst of the essay collection And It Begins Like This by LaTanya McQueen. The way she weaves in corporate history, family history, and personal experience to share her story of being a black woman is bold, fierce, and genius. She has family ties to North Carolina, so that adds to the experience reading this book.
And just for good measure, I asked my daughters to share a few of their favorites:
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. My older daughter loves all three books in this series. In the first one, the three sisters travel to Oakland, CA to visit their mother who they think abandoned them.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. The family’s landlord doesn’t want to renew their lease so the children try to save their home. My older daughter cruised through this book and the second in the series, and she can’t wait for the release of the third.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. Delightful illustrations and mini biographies of some amazing women. Both my girls love this one. We’ve taken to reading one woman’s story each night.
I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. A picture book story about a little girl and her experience with her hair. It’s a beautiful affirmation of black hair textures.
I often share books I love on Facebook and Instagram. You can find me here:
Patrice Gopo’s essays have appeared in a variety of publications and her radio commentaries have appeared on Charlotte’s NPR station WFAE 90.7. She is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Literature Fellowship, and her essay collection, All the Colors We Will See, is a Fall 2018 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Please visit www.patricegopo.com/subscribe to learn more.