By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ
Marra B. Gad shows great strength in “The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl,” as she cares for an aunt afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
Independent film and TV producer Marra B. Gad’s book is one of the new titles for Agate Publishing’s current season, and her book tour is coming to Evanston this weekend. In her debut memoir, Gad writes about how she, after 15 years of estrangement from her racist, abusive great aunt, helps bring her home when Alzheimer’s strikes.
“The Color of Love” is a timely story, ripe with themes of identity, racism, family politics and more.
Press materials describe it as “an honest and fresh narrative from a voice that needs to be heard.” Through her one-of-a-kind perspective, Gad provides insight into the ways believers and survivors transcend brokenness, trauma and prejudice through love.
I read this book and commend Gad on her strength, compassion and love of family, as she traveled a journey that she felt only she could—even after enduring so much personal pain. The “love of family” to which I refer is demonstrated in the book because Gad’s great aunt Nette needed more attention as her affairs were assumed by the state of California, after Nette was sinking deeper into the clutches of Alzheimer’s. Gad’s mother was not physically able to make trips from Chicago to San Francisco.
The pain to which I refer is the pain that Gad constantly endured from Nette, whenever they were in each other’s company. Gad’s birth mother was Jewish and her father was Black.
Nette could never accept that Gad, who was adopted by a white Jewish family, was not the right color, weight or social status as her brother and sister. Nette always degraded Gad or hurled derogatory comments her way. An excerpt from the book at the occasion of a family wedding: “You know, we were a very liberal family to let you in, in the first place,” Nette continued, taking a long pull from her martini. “I mean, me having a Chinese husband is one thing, but nothing is worse than Black.”
Other instances and situations amplified Nette’s disdain for Gad, along with Gad feeling as an outcast among her peers in school, but they pale in comparison to the above statements. Gad overlooked all of this and took on the role of checking in on her aunt and rallying—against a disrespectful and uncaring conservator—for Nette to be moved to a care facility in the Chicago area.
During the 18 months that it took to accomplish this, Gad was able to get closer to her aunt, who resisted at first because she was losing her memory and thought Gad was a stranger. However, at one point the disease erased the racist ideals of the aunt (although I’m unsure if the aunt knew that this stranger was her niece). This caused her to eventually welcome Gad’s help, which in turn helped Gad temporarily imagine that her aunt accepted her unconditionally. Her aunt started calling her “pretty lady.” And Gad reveled in this because she didn’t know how long this would last. “But in my upside-down world, Alzheimer’s turned an abusive, mean woman into someone docile. Sweet. Complimentary. And the eyes that no longer recognized me no longer saw me as ugly or inferior. The disease turned Nette into someone I had always hoped she was,” writes Gad.
“The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl” is written so intimately that a reader feels as if they are on the journey with Gad. To hear the author read from her book and to purchase a copy, which is great reading and I also consider a help for caregivers, plan to attend a local event on Sunday, November 24, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., 1712 Sherman Ave., Alley #1, Evanston. For more info about the book, visit https://www.agatepublishing.com/titles/the-color-of-love.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader newspaper. She is also the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood–South Side of Chicago.” For book info, firstname.lastname@example.org.