In my recent book, Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity, I tell the story of growing up within a culture and a race that was different to my own. Here’s an excerpt:
Once in Catalina, we became neighbors with a German family whose three daughters were close to me in age. Putzi, the youngest, wandered over to our house most often. We giggled and laughed, shared secrets and got into all sorts of mischief, and became inseparable. When one was punished the other also suffered the consequences. In a family of Hanseatic blondes, my friend was the fairest. Her features seemed chiseled in alabaster; her hair, thin and shiny like finest silk, was cut in a pageboy. When she laughed, light, caught like ripples on water, sparkled in her pale blue eyes.
It must have been a special day when Ruth bought me a Brownie camera that took black and white photographs. She showed me how it worked and then took pictures of Putzi and me. A week later, we saw the photographs. They came in a double-sided envelope with the positives in one side and the negatives in the other. In the positive images, as in reality, I was dark and my friend light. We discovered, however, much to our amazement, that in the negatives, I was light, and she dark.
“Maybe, the camera captures a picture of our soul,” Putzi whispered mysteriously cupping a hand to my ear. “Maybe white people in reality are devils and dark people angels,” she added and we curled up giggling. Just then Marta walked by with the freshly ironed laundry.
“I wonder how she looks in a negative,” I whispered to Putzi. We looked for Ruth and finding her, asked her to capture our faces with caramel-colored Marta. On seeing the negatives, Putzi decided that Indians were saints in purgatory because their jet-black hair glowed like a halo invisible to regular eyes.
Such was the nature of our observations and our early philosophical conclusions regarding skin color, angels, and purgatory.
Read more: Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity (Kindle) or Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity.