Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex
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on November 18, 2004
Marita Golden, as always, writes in an elegant, understated fashion...and this time brings to the fore what I and many African women consider to be the #1 problem facing our people today...the much denied hatred for dark skinned people, and in particular--FEMALES--who are "authentically" black.

I didn't, however, give the book five stars for tackling such an important subject. I gave it 5 stars for the author's subtle handling of YEARS of heartbreak, disappointment and "forced coping". I gave the book five stars, because Golden so carefully layers and allows her own personal beauty to spotlight the fact that color prejudice is both insidious and cancerous. Amazingly, Golden does this without rage or reciprocal hate.

By hating the darkest of black women...we are essentially proving that we ourselves have become White Supremacists who hate the womb of our beginning and ALL BLACK PEOPLE. What could be more important for black people in 2004 to wrap their minds around?

I myself come from Sudan and was put up for adoption at age 8 by my Egyptian grandmother...because she felt that my skin color was "too dark" for me to be included in my father's Egyptian family after he and my mother were murdered for protesting slavery in SUDAN.

I am the child of a "charcoal colored" African beauty and an Arab father.

Naturally, the trauma of such a rejection and such an event cannot be conveyed with mere words, but as a mother of 2 young boys who will someday be grown black men...I am grateful to Marita Golden for providing yet another powerful and important art work (to go along with Morrison's BLUEST EYE and my own LONG TRAIN TO THE REDEEMING SIN) that can aid us all in the dismantling of this troubling and horrific insanity through which white supremacy continues to hack away the limbs of our sacred being.

Black is not only Beautiful--Black is the genesis of humanity and deserves to exist. And Marita Golden continues to be a lush, velvety voice in the static, sometimes frivalous NEW world of black literature. I highly recommend this book, and as always...I so deeply love Golden's care, class and intelligence.

Kola Boof (...)
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on February 21, 2006
This book has made it on my list of must-reads for my children and must-haves in my library. It is a strikingly impressive work. As a middle-aged white man, I can only offer that I learned a lot about the author's culture (and was revealed a lot about mine) but put aside completely the topic of the book for a moment...it was one of the most beautifully written things I have ever read. I believe Marita Golden could write about the dynamics of drying paint and hold my undivided attention. Her skill as a writer alone makes the book a more than worthwhile read.
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on May 22, 2004
We often read of "garbage messages" that are universal to all children, or, as John Bradshaw labels as "shame-based messages."
And in this book, by Marita Golden, we read how those of color pass on messages to their children, that from a child's view is an attack. From an adult view, it is both a warning of how one is measured by those in power, and it is something that is blindly passed on - not questioned, just accepted as fact, much like the unspoken messages that generation after generation mothers pass on to their daughters about their limitations.
I selected this book because I read, years ago, "Migration of the Heart," and "Skin Deep," by Ms. Golden. And I continue to be moved by her written messages. She speaks to your soul!
As a child, I do remember conflicting messages of, "Go outside and play," shortly followed by, "If you stay in the sun too long you will be too black."
"Too black" in the 60's, during the Civil Rights Movement - at times when we were saying, "Say it loud. I'm black and I'm proud?"
Yes. It was a statement unconsciously spoken. And it continues to be spoken, whites worry about the dangers of tanning salons, and blacks search for ways to "blend in."
Another reason why I was drawn to this book is that Ms. Golden uses Zora Neale Hurston's (read "Their Eyes Were Watching God," and her other books) messages from the first page, throught the book, to encourage change.
Thank you Ms. Golden, for telling your story, and for believing in your purpose, and for contributing to race relations being an inside job.
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on February 6, 2007
This book is a sad, but real example of the psychological effects that Jim Crow, slavery, and colonialism had on Black people.

Marita Golden tells of the difficulties she had as a dark-skinned black girl in color-conscious Washington DC in the 1950s and the failure of the Black Power movement of the sixties to effectively destroy colorism in Black America in particular.

She also adds some telling commentary, as a world traveler, as to how darker people in the rest of the world still use dangerous bleaching creams to improve their low condition in life.

As a dark black man who was a teenager in equally color conscious Charleston, SC in the 1980s when people forgot that black was beautiful, I can relate to much of this book. But since looks do not play as big a role in the life of adult men as it does women and having had a Dad who taught me black history at an early age and understanding the ignorance of the naysayers, I have moved on from this.

I do not fault Ms. Golden for the effects this has on the way she sees almost everything. people tend to respond to oppression and trauma in different ways. In fact, I think she is to be commended for articulating why it is so difficult for many Black people (especially those of her generation) to just "Get Over It." While I am more Bill Cosby than Micheal Eric Dyson and am against wails of self pity and "excusism," it is true that growing up being completely devalued as a human being since childhood can either make you sink or swim, and not all will swim.

One thing that took me for a loop in this book was her belief that while she felt Black men who dated white women were self-hating, it was okay for her to date the Frenchman Marc. While I personally consider interracial realtionships a non-issue, the hypocrisy in this makes me say WHAT?!

But that aside, this is a valuable addition to the discussion of how and why low-self esteem is as bad as it is in so much of Black America.
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on June 15, 2005
This is the first book I read about colorism. I thought it was "real" and "honest." I'm glad that somebody has finally addressed this issue of colorism. Being a dark skinned young lady myself, I can identify with the book. I do not believe that this book was a "woe as me" or "feel sorry for me" type of book. I believe the author wrote this book to share her experiences of being a dark skinned woman and to make the public aware that colorism is still an issue in this country. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I heard an older woman (about 38 years old) tell a child's mother (5 years old) say "You need to put sunblock on your daughter or she's going to end up being a chocolate baby." She said this in front of the child. Of course I was upset and confronted the woman. It is comments like this that let me know, colorism still exists.

I believe anyone who is not aware of colorism, and the consequences that it has on people (dark and light), should read this book. I learned that this is not an issue that is dealt with in America only, but in other countries as well. This needs to stop. Dark skin as well as light skin is beautiful.
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on July 24, 2004
The color complex has been a problem with African-Americans since the days of slavery, where the some of the lighter sons and daughters of slave owners were given preferential treatment over darker ones. In Marita Golden's (Migrations of the Heart) new memoir, "Don't Play in the Sun," she examines the intricacies of what it means to have grown up a dark-skinned African-American woman where women of lighter complexion were favored.

The book commences with snippets of Golden's experiences dealing with color including the recollection of mother's stark warnings not to play in the sun or else she will have to get a light-skinned husband for the sake of her children. The statement causes the young Golden to question her beauty and self-worth based on skin tone and hair texture throughout her entire life. Witnessing intra-racial preference influences her decision not to American University instead of Howard because of the favoritism shown towards lighter-skinned Blacks at the all-Black school and influences how she views the portrayal of dark-skinned women on television. The author also reminds the reader that light-skinned women are subjected to discrimination as well, particularly objectification and sexism.

Golden recalls her world travels in Nigeria where many women surprisingly use skin-lightening creams to attract men, Cuba, where darker-skinned denizens hold menial jobs as maids, doormen, and even prostitutes while their lighter-skinned neighbors hold more visible, success-oriented positions, and Belgium, where her romance with a European man was, for the most part, socially accepted.

The book not only serves as an intriguing memoir but also a critique on popular culture, social norms, and political practices throughout the world. Golden offers her opinion on the popular Hip-Hop videos, the Grammy awards, the works of Zora Neale Hurston, and much more. People of all colors and gender should be able to find something enlightening and didactic about "Don't Play in the Sun." Golden has penned a wonderful, succinct, page-turner that examines the complex relationship between lighter skinned and darker skinned people. One can only hope that the reader will take Golden's life lessons to heart and grow from them.

Emanuel Carpenter
[...]
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on May 6, 2004
Marita Golden, as always, continues to write in an elegant, understated fashion...and this time brings to the fore what I and many African women consider to be the #1 problem facing our people today...the much denied hatred for dark skinned people, and in particular--FEMALES--who are "authentically" black.
I didn't, however, give the book five stars for tackling such an important subject. I gave it 5 stars for the author's subtle handling of YEARS of heartbreak, disappointment and "forced coping". I gave the book five stars, because Golden so carefully layers and allows her own personal beauty to spotlight the fact that color prejudice is both insidious and cancerous. Amazingly, Golden does this without rage and reciprical hate.
By hating the darkest of black women...we are essentially proving that we ourselves are White Supremacists who hate the womb of our beginning and ALL BLACK PEOPLE. What could be more important for black people in 2004 to wrap their minds around?
I myself come from Sudan and was put up for adoption at age 8 by my Egyptian grandmother...because she felt that my skin color was "too dark" for me to be included in my father's Egyptian family after he and my mother were murdered for protesting slavery in SUDAN.
I am the child of a "charcoal colored" African beauty and an Arab father.
Naturally, the trauma of such a rejection and such an event cannot be conveyed with mere words, but as a mother of 2 young boys who will someday be grown black men...I am grateful to Marita Golden for providing yet another powerful and important art work (to go along with Morrison's BLUEST EYE and my own LONG TRAIN TO THE REDEEMING SIN) that can aid us all in the dismantling of this troubling and horrific insanity through which white supremacy continues to hack away the limbs of our sacred being.
Black is not only Beautiful--Black is the genesis of humanity and deserves to exist. And Marita Golden continues to be a lush, velvety voice in the static, sometimes frivalous NEW world of black literature. I highly recommend this book, and as always...I so deeply love Golden's care, class and intelligence.
Kola Boof, Author of "Long Train to the Redeeming Sin: Stories About African Women".
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on October 20, 2005
"Don't Play In the Sun" by Marita Golden

***5 Stars

This is a very disturbing subject, especially if you are lightskinned like me. Luckily, Marita Golden handles it with a lot of tenderness and care for others.

I liked Marita Golden's book more than The Color Complex, because her life story gave it a specially intimate dimension.

I would recommend this along with anything by Kola Boof, an Ethiopian author who has really been bringing this subject up in ways that literally stop the blood in your veins. Her novel "Flesh and the Devil" breaks this issue down but it's not for the squeamish. She's like Hardcore compared to Marita Golden and most authors I've read.

I'm going to read "The Bluest Eye" next.

"Don't Play In the Sun" is a NEW CLASSIC. People will be reading this for years.
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on May 25, 2005
I am not afraid to look the reality of colorism in the eye and acknowledge that it does exist within the black community. It is my greatest hope and dream that someday the dark skinned black and the light skinned black will be seen as the one family in the future. I want so much to love the lightskinned sister and brother as my own reflection and not be divided from them or made to feel that one is treated better than the other, but sadly, that day is not here and this book bravely and powerfully illustrates that point to the fullest.

I am a medium brown colored woman, my mother was very dark skinned and I have witnessed the evils of skin color prejudice all my life. In most situations, it was Black Men who were prejudiced against myself and the women around me beccause of our coloring. These men felt no shame or limit in their racist intra-family prejudice and measured their entire lives by how many light skinned or white women they could attain and how light brite their children could come out. It's everywhere and anyone who denies it is both a fool and a liar.

That is why I highly recommend THE BLACKER THE BERRY by Wallace Thurman. There is no truer portrait of the self-hatred among our people than the one extolled in this book, and what makes it even sadder is that this book was written in the 1920's. So that only shows how deep this kind of evil runs.

Lately, I have become very interested in this subject and I have searched for other books that explore this subject with intelligence, honest, beauty and wisdom and I have found several that I consider to be classics on the subject of Colorism.

(1) MARITA GOLDEN'S book "Don't Play In the Sun" is definitely the most modern up to date book of the bunch. It expertly weaves the story of her life experiences in the 1960's Black Power movement with the current struggles of women like Serena Williams and India Arie to find their way in the world, even in the midst of being shunned and ignored by the black community itself. The book's analysis of the Hollywood casting system and the "Mulatto Follies" of BET and MTV is priceless.

(2) "The Bluest Eye" by TONI MORRISON is by far the most riveting and painful book that I have read on this subject of colorism. I believe that her book, more than any mother, gets to the psychological and historical root cause of the problem and exposes the mode in which we pass the problem on generation to generation. The destruction of an innocent black girl named Pecola Breedlove will leave you heartbroken and shocked as you see the bold naked truth unfold right before your eyes. You can't ignore this book, because the story being told is the one that you are all too familiar with no matter what color you are.

(3) "Flesh and the Devil" by African novelist KOLA BOOF is another deeply powerful book that examines colorism, but not out in the open. This book is unique in that it focuses on a very enchanting love story between a Black Prince and Princess and follows their reincarnations through history as they struggle to find their way back to each other. Through detailed moments in black history, both in Africa and the United States, the provocative author highlights the way that black people originally viewed their beauty and humanity and then juxtuposes it against the way they see themselves now in the modern world. The result is nothing less than devastating. I love this book so much, because the storytelling is so rich and the depth is so sweeping and grand. Anyone who loves good writing and is proud to be descended from the Black race will find themselves literally changed forever by the powerful images depicted in this very poetically moving story.

(4) "The Color Complex"--VARIOUS AUTHORS, is a very simple, straight forward analysis from a sociological point of view. Much research and statistical facts are used to illustrate that our communities are infested with these issues.

(5) "The Darkest Child" by Dolores Philips is another great novel that shows us the poor blacks who live under the poverty line ingesting these complex social hierarchies based on color and how they not only expose their children to them, but force the entire community to live by the "color code". Everybody is used to it from slavery and the system goes on and on unchallenged. In this book, Tangy Mae, the darkest of 10 children by the white-looking mother Rozelle, struggles to find her dignity and confidence in the midst of her evil light skinned mother inflicting one horrid abuse on top of the other. One thing I will say for the evil white-looking mother, Rozelle, is that she treated all of her children hiddeously and with contempt, from the whitest to the blackest. But she killed the child who was born looking like Tangy Mae and that spoke volumnes. This book is a very real metaphor for what goes on. Very real.
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on June 27, 2004
This is the book Marita Golden thought she would never have to write. As a young political activist she thought the old colorist barriers had been broken down for good. But now she says "we are standing still on nearly the same spot where we once were rooted." As a warm, outgoing, strong, educated and articulate black Black woman, she is the perfect spokesperson to address some thorny issues. Her particular concern is the message that the media are sending to young blacks that "a Black girl is considered neither alluring nor pretty unless she is light and long-haired."
Marita Golden is a successful novelist and professor of writing, who has talked about the color issue with people in America, Cuba and Nigeria, where she once lived. She has talked to teenaged girls and boys, mothers and fathers, therapists and hairdressers, screenwriters and television producers. Some of the people Marita Golden interviewed would only talk if their names weren't mentioned. Others, like cultural historian Anthony Browder, say frankly that "BET has set us back a decade. There simply are not enough messages in the rest of the culture to counter the self-hating propaganda that most of the videos present." Well, here's one such message and it's loud and clear. Thank you, Ms Golden
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