Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex

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In a hard-hitting meditation on the role that color plays among African Americans and in wider society, Marita Golden dares to put herself on the line, expressing her fears and rage about how she has navigated through the color complex.

To be sure, this is book is not a pity party—but, rather, a nuanced look at identity, and the irrepressible and graceful will of the human spirit. Peppering her narrative with “Postcards from the Color Complex,” reminiscences of some of the author’s most powerful experiences, Golden takes us inside her world, and inside her heart, to show what a half-century of intraracial and interracial personal politics looks like. We come to see the world through the eyes of the young Marita, and the dualism that existed in her own home: the ebony-hued father, who cherished her and taught her to be “black and proud,” and the lighter-skinned mother, who one summer afternoon admonished Marita while she was outside, “Come on in the house, it’s too hot to be playing out here. I’ve told you don’t go playing in the sun, ’cause as it is, you gonna have to get a light-skinned husband for the sake of your children.”

At every turn in her life—in high school, her black-power college days, as a young married woman in Africa, as a college professor, as an accomplished author, and even today—race and color are the inescapable veils through which Golden has been viewed.

In her most daring book to date, esteemed author Marita Golden has the courage to take on a topic others only talk about behind closed doors.

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Don't play in the sun: one woman's journey through the color complex

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Novelist/memoirist Golden (Migrations of the Heart) combines autobiography, interviews, and social commentary in a potent meditation on a rampant preference for "lightness and brightness" among ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

MARITA GOLDEN has written both fiction and nonfiction, including Migrations of the Heart, The Edge of Heaven, A Miracle Every Day, and Saving Our Sons. She is the editor of Wild Women Don’t Wear No Blues: Black Women Writers on Love, Men and Sex and the coeditor of Gumbo: An Anthology of African American Writing and of Skin Deep: Black Women and White Women Write About Race. She is the founder and CEO of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, which supports African American writers, and lives in Maryland. Please visit Marita at

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