Heartfelt, lyrical and emotional, Color Me In is a story that places self identity front and center. Natasha Diaz’s debut book is about learning to love all of the different, complicated, parts that make you who you are.
Inspired by the Diaz’s own experiences, Color Me In is a coming of age YA story about a Neveah Levitz, a teenage girl living in New York. In this book, Neveah is dealing with the aftermath of her parents divorce and trying to confront her biracial identity seriously for the first time. Neveah is both Black and Jewish, but she grew up in affluent suburban New York and was wrapped in a bubble of privilege. Still, she was never popular in school and was considered an outsider. When she moves to her mother’s family home in Harlem, she doesn’t quite fit with her aunt’s daughters who see her as white. Neveah experiences major culture shock. It is the first time she’s really exposed to the life her mother had before she was born. In Harlem, Neveah learns about her mother’s family and their struggles with racism, classism and prejudice. As she begins to get more comfortable with this, her father pulls her in the other direction and wants her to have a bat mitzvah. She’s stuck in between two worlds, but being in Harlem is the catalyst for her to begin to own all of her identities proudly.
The way this book deals with topics like colorism and racism is genuine and I enjoyed how Neveah learns to examine her own privilege throughout this book. Her cousins see her as white passing/ white and while that does frustrate Neveah, she learns how to accept that without automatically becoming defensive.
One of the things I wished this book developed a little bit more was Neveah’s father and his affair with his much younger secretary. In the book, he cheats on Neveah’s mother and this causes the divorce to happen. Neveah doesn’t like her, but always judges her on based on looks. While I understand that the Neveahis a teenage girl, I wish that the novel didn’t rely on this angle as much. In a book where identity and appearance really intersect, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more depth into her character, given the fact that she is a major player in the deterioration of the relationship between Neveah and her father.
Color Me In shines with coming of age confusion, happiness and love. It captures the feelings of being uncertain where you belong within the world but growing from it, and ultimately learning to carve your own path.