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Color My World

Donald Vaughn: Color My World. A Life’s Journey from Detroit to Frankfurt Germany.
2012. Amani Verlag, Frankfurt am Main. 280 pages. ISBN 978-3-86320-015-2


Color My World is an autobiography of an African American expatriate, whoes roots lay in the small, black urban community in Detroit called Conant Gardens. It was a community where black, working-class homeowners began to expand beyond the borders laid down in the pre-war segregation of America. Beginning with the immigration of his parents from the South, the author describes the atmosphere of Detroit in the 1920's and the illegal activity of his father during this period. His youth, guided by his mother towards the goal of integration, led him to daring episodes across the color line. Music becomes a matter of class difference as his aunt, an up-and-coming opera singer, redirects his singing talent from the streets - where Motown Records recruited its future stars - to the concert stage.

Racism is approached in a matter of fact mode, until conflicts within his own family over color leads to his escape into military service. Confronted face to face with discrimination within the army, the author gains respect from his platoon sergeant by resorting to the advice given him by his mother: "sticks and stones will hurt your bones, but words will never harm you" and becomes a platoon leader. During his basic army training, a series of correspondence with his parents begins that keep a window open to the lives of his family. In many ways the letters become the only life line to their oldest son, now living in Germany and married to a  German woman. The moving, continuous spiritual guidance in the letters from his father, who never stopped teaching him the right path to take, form a monologue that runs parallel to the story of the author.

Historical events that took place within the American and German societies are woven into the story line, as the story moves from Frankfurt and back to Detroit, to events that came "close to home". The major part of his autobiography is told in the background of the social changes taking place during the student revolution and conflicts for immigrants in Germany between 1960 and 1998. Here begins the story of his efforts to make a career as a singer-actor and the discriminations that he and his wife encountered as a bi-racial couple. He finds work in the City Planning Department of Frankfurt before finally giving up his music aspirations. While still maintaining his job, he obtains a masters degree in sociology and begins working as a sociologist in Frankfurt's Department of Multi-cultural Affairs. Here he develops a critical view of the German immigration politics while working in the interest of new immigrants. Upon retirement the author makes a final trip home searching for lost identities and memories of his past, only to return to his German home to witness the end of another life, that of his son's.

A fascinating story, that renders sociological insight into racism without becoming academic and remains touchingly private.

Hay Media