Lafanu Brown, half Native American and half Haitian and fully American, is living and working as an artist in Rome in 1887 when she finally decides to tell her fiancé the story of her life up to that time. It involves a heart-breaking amount of mistreatment based on nothing more than the color of her skin, unsurprisingly, but it also contains stories of Lafanu’s dedication, tenacity, and resilience. Meanwhile, in 2019 a Somali-Italian woman is curating an art show and decides to include some of Lafanu’s paintings. She is inspired to do so by her young cousin’s attempt to join her in Europe, kept away by the simple fact that she comes from a place considered undesirable, with no look at her own abilities and passions.
The Color Line is an amazing book. The line between how Blacks were treated in the 19th century and how immigrants fleeing impossible lives are treated today is all too bright and clear. It encourages one to look with clear eyes at the realities of being a Black woman both in the aftermath of the American Civil war and in Europe today. And yet in the hands of a great writer (and translator!), the story is deftly wielded, and manages to be uplifting rather than crushing. Highly recommended!