What is the significance of "Color Me Real" by J. California Cooper?

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Out of all of J. California Cooper's books I think "A Piece of Mine" is my favorite.  I have all of her novels and short stories and I have them autographed.  If you ever get the chance to hear her read, you really need to go and enjoy her melodious voice and her powerfull presentation.  "Color Me Real" is one of the short stories in this collection.  My personal favorite story from this collection is "$100 and Nothing" but all of these stories deal with Black women and the problems they have with their expectations and dealings with Black men.

"The didactic, platitudinous strain that runs through almost all of Cooper's stories is especially emphatic in "Color Me Real." This story is about Era, a black woman who has a Black mother, Mina, and a White father.  She grows up seeing her mother abused by this man and witnesses her mother care for him even after the abuse stops. 

When Era is 17 she leaves home and goes out into the world.  She attempts to pass for white and this brings her heartache and abuse when her husbands learn she is really black.

This story is significant because she learns that it is not about being black or white.  Life is about being "real."  She finally learns to accept the realness of who she is and who George, her childhood friend, really is. 

"She was neither white nor black now. She was a woman, his woman. It lasted til death did them part, leaving beautiful brown children on the beautiful brown earth."

"Like many of J. California Cooper's stories, “Color Me Real” is rooted in a small rural community and concerns a poor young black woman who seeks affection and respect from the men in her life. Although Era may suffer, she does retain her courage, determination, and sense of humor. “Color Me Real” is also about self-discovery and race."

Read the study guide:
Color Me Real

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