One of the ways I continue to color outside of the lines is by seeking to recognize, celebrate and honor different races, cultures and ethnicities. As someone who identifies as white, for a long time I didn’t think issues of race had anything to do with me …but when the power of love entered my life, I began to see the profound beauty already existent in a myriad of colors around me. In the same thread, you must get your hands on my friend Patrice Gopo’s new book, All the Colors We Will See: it’s phenomenal. Check out this interview with her and leave a comment to win a copy of it!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? Hi everyone! My name is Patrice Gopo. I’m a writer who returns again and again to themes revolving around race and racial identity formation along with migration and movement of people—basically the stuff that comprises the building blocks for my life. I’m the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, and I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. I spent my entire childhood in Anchorage. In adulthood, however, I’ve lived in a variety of places including a bunch of states and several different countries. My husband is originally from Zimbabwe, and we met in South Africa. After we married, I spent a few years living there, and we welcomed our first daughter during that time (we now have two girls). We’ve been living in Charlotte, North Carolina for almost eight years.
In addition to the variety of places I’ve lived, I’ve also had the opportunity to work in several different fields. I studied chemical engineering in college and worked for Eastman Kodak for a few years before transitioning to graduate school. I received masters degrees in both business administration and public policy. Right after graduate school I helped women in Cape Town start small businesses.
These days, as a writer, teacher, and speaker, I’m passionate about empowering people to share their personal stories about identity formation. To tell our stories and listen to others share their stories serves as a mechanism to promote healing and understanding in our society.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? My book is an essay collection that delves into race, immigration, identity formation, and belonging. Like I mentioned above, I am the black American daughter of Jamaican immigrants who was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. In All the Colors We Will See, I write about my experience growing up in these particular circumstances and trying to figure out where I belong. I examine what happens when you are a black American but your life experience and your family’s background may not fit the very narrow narrative our country often offers black Americans. I also write about the ways people move across countries, continents, and cultures and how this shapes our identity.
Ultimately, All the Colors We Will See is a collection of reflections about the barriers and brokenness that exist in society and the way these realities impact my particular story.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? My life!! I started writing around the time my first daughter was born in South Africa. I found I kept coming back to some of the same themes over and over again even as I wrote different stories from my life. I’ve heard it said that writers spend their whole life writing one poem, one story, one essay. Of course, not literally, but the idea is that we spend our lives trying to answer one question through our work. I often think my question is, “Where do I belong?” And at the heart of this book that delves into race, immigration, and identity formation is this question: given my particular background and the reality of our world, is it possible for me to figure out where I belong?
I hope readers who may not be a black woman or person of color will see some experiences we share in common like my quest for belonging. But I hope they don’t then reduce my stories to this idea that we’re all the same. Instead, I hope they let my words take them a step further. I hope that the commonalities become the very entry point that allow them to better see the ways we are not the same and the ways brokenness impacts our lives in different degrees.
And for readers who are people of color and see themselves in my words, my hope is that they feel a deep sense of affirmation that stories like ours matter, that stories like ours must be out there in the world and told.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? While this collection certainly interacts with themes of faith and spirituality, this is not always overt. However, in the process of writing this collection, I realized why it is I cling to this Christian faith that often puzzles me or has hurt me. Or perhaps, at times, even feels somehow insufficient for the struggles of this world. It was in the process of writing this collection that I fully realized that I cling to this faith because it gives me courage to be more than I thought possible and strength to forgive what seems impossible to forgive. And this courage, this ability to forgive, these things both matter to me. I see that now in ways I didn’t before I first began writing these words.
How and where can we find you on the internet?
So, what do you say? What intrigues you about this interview with Patrice? Leave a comment below to win a copy of All the Colors We Will See, and we’ll draw a winner on Friday!
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