In her debut memoir,
The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl,
independent film and television producer Marra B. Gad tells a deeply compelling story about her life as an adopted, biracial Jew growing up in Chicago in the 1970s. Told she was not "black enough" for black spaces, Gad simultaneously faced racism in the Jewish community--even within her own family. Her parents cut ties with relatives who discriminated against their daughter, including her beloved Great-Aunt Nette. But 15 years later, when Nette is dying of Alzheimer's, Gad decided to become her great-aunt's caregiver. In beautiful, fearless prose, Gad tells a story about that relationship that is alternately heart-wrenching and heartwarming.
recently spoke with Gad about
The Color of Love
What's the one message you'd like people to take away from your story?
If I had to choose one thing that I would like people to take away from my story, it's that love is the most powerful force in the universe, and that it is always a choice that we can make. Especially in the face of hate.
You make loving reference to your rabbi, Rabbi Schaalman (z"l). Was your experience at your own congregation different or better than in the general community?
I believe that a synagogue is simply a microcosm of the larger Jewish community, and my experience in my childhood congregation was reflective of my experience in the general community. There were many beautiful moments and many horrific moments. On the beautiful side, I was the president of my youth group, and my confirmation class. I found my way to OSRUI, where I went to summer camp. And I had some wonderful relationships, including the one with Rabbi Schaalman. That said, the terrible moments were certainly magnified because it was the place that should have been "home."
With increasing diversity in the American Jewish community, do you see attitudes and behaviors changing? Do you think a young biracial or African-American Jew today would have the same experience you did?
I see the demographics in the American Jewish community changing and becoming more gorgeously diverse and that is a very good thing. When I was younger, I was always the only brown face in a sea of white, Ashkenazi faces. I never saw myself in anyone else, and that was painful and isolating. That is no longer the case. We are also talking about our diversity, and that is also a very good recent thing. That said, I cannot say that things are demonstrably different now behavior-wise than they were in the 1970s. They certainly are not markedly different for me. At High Holy Days services this year, a woman seated near me made a scene during services asking repeatedly--even after she watched me pray for nearly an hour--what I was "doing there" . . . I hold hope that by talking about things we will find our way to a better, more warm and wholly accepting place as a people. And I pray with all my heart that the gorgeous, young non-white Jewish children that I see around me and that I see out on my book tour will not experience the things that I have.
There's a beautiful moment of reconciliation, where you and Nette share a piece of chocolate cake; can readers hold this image in mind as the end of the story?
While I appreciate the sweetness (no pun intended) in wanting to end the story with Nette and me sharing that piece of chocolate cake, it's simply not where the story ends. Part of the joy in writing this book was finding the beauty in the truth--and the truth of my story extended beyond that piece of cake. While the book doesn't offer up a traditional "happy" ending, to have ended the book by sharing Nette's entire journey, and my own, was important to me. Because, as I share in the end, I know exactly who I am because of the entirety of my relationship with Nette. And I hope that my readers will find beauty in that, just as I have.