Star Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Colour Me Yellow
Kwela Books, September 2017
Online Price: R246
Reading Colour Me Yellow, I felt like an adult watching helplessly over a child’s unfolding plight. A relentlessly heart-breaking story of rejection – first by Thuli’s own mother, then by society, because she is different – this book makes for a deeply-emotional read about a woman growing into her own existence. It’s a radical memoir of pain and heartache.
There is nothing pretentious about Nhlapo’s writing. She offers a straightforward, well-detailed account of events, unpacking the horrors of family secrets – the kind that haunt us forever. Hers is a retelling of failed traditions that go unaddressed for centuries.
Nhlapo grows up in an environment where her mother tells her she hated being pregnant with her. She yearns for a normal childhood and how it feels for people to call you by your name instead of ‘Yellow’.
Rocked by family closet-skeletons, Thuli is nonetheless determined, strong-willed and a person who lives her life, fiercely, how she chooses to.
She embarks on a mission to find the reasons underlying the hostility she encountered from her family and elsewhere, growing up. She wants to understand why she was never wanted.
It was useless to try to smile when I knew I was not wanted.
She confronts her mother about her real father and real surname. Getting no answers, she embarks on years of searching for the truth.
Eventually, a family member gives her an address to go to where she will find everything about her real origins. The people she faces there shock her, but, at least, they are eager to accept her as their own. She longs for more and still feels that she does not belong. She persists and finally uncovers the truth about her origins. The revelation will have you lurching.
About the author: Thuli Nhlapo is an acclaimed journalist and television producer.
— Review by Nondumiso Tshabangu, editor of Africa’s Lit, the African literature-themed newsletter from Exclusive Books