Review of Marie NDiaye’s Self-Portrait in Green

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Erin Morgan Gilbert

marie_ndiaye-green-largerWhere I grew up, green obscured all evidence of human endeavor, softening corners and blotting out other colors. Moss devoured cars and mattresses abandoned in the woods, blanketed roofs, and carpeted the roads. Bodies of water reflected a profound verdancy in their very names: Lake Wilderness, Cedar River, Green River. Even my mother’s eyes were green. Once, she said her favorite color was green too, and I felt disappointed, as if she had admitted to me a secret fatalism, a willingness to disappear into the background. I thought that by allowing the color surrounding us to colonize her personal preferences she was signaling her acceptance of the strict parameters—the poverty and ignorance—that constrained our lives.

Years later, after she died, I found a tiny emerald ring she used to wear, but the gem had cracked. For me, green became associated with loss, but it wasn’t until…

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