A Mexican American girl progresses from kindergarten to graduation in 1960s and ’70s California in Living Color, a collection of linked stories by Donna Miscolta.
One of four children in a transient Navy family, Angie Rubio knows she is different from her first day of kindergarten, when she compares the “pale, pink, or freckled” faces of her fellow students to her own complexion—“toast, well-done.” The collection’s thirteen stories track Angie’s school years, following her through ill-fated playground games in elementary school, as she struggles to navigate deteriorating friendships and her burgeoning sexuality in junior high, and as she seizes her voice to challenge restrictions and prejudice in high school.
Throughout, Angie confronts incidents of classism and racism, some made all the more heartbreaking because of her childlike perspective. She is frustrated and confused when she is given the role of the mailman or monster, instead of the mother or princess, while playing pretend with friends. Self-described as “brown, skinny, and bespectacled,” Angie struggles with her self-esteem and is befuddled by the attention she receives from boys. Once she is in high school, her talent for writing is recognized; her confidence blooms as she embraces her abilities.
While thirteen years is a daunting amount of time to summate, the vignettes are clear. The inclusion of events like the JFK assassination and the Watts riots, coupled with pop culture references, help to track time, and characters are sketched with contrasts and clarity, remaining distinct even in the slim spaces they occupy. Standouts include Wanda, an outspoken and bubbly school friend, and Angie’s elder sister, Eva. The relationship between the siblings is touching: it grows from childhood tensions and competitions to adult support and understanding.
A memorable examination of becoming and belonging in America, Living Color chronicles coming of age in a season of unrest.
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