Colors of Childhood
Color Midnight Made
By Andrew Winer, creative writing lecturer
Washington Square Press, 2002 258 pp. $24.00
They say I cant see colors. Theyre lying. I can see
colors in people. Moms is yellow. Pops is camouflage. Our teacher Mr.
Garabedian is tan like a weed. I got a color for everybody. Except me.
So begins the first novel by Pomona creative writing lecturer Andrew Winer.
The Color Midnight Made is the story of 10-year-old Conrad Clay, a white
boy who lives in a primarily black part of the San Francisco Bay Area.
He floats between an alcoholic and abusive father, a depressed mother,
an aging and ailing grandmother, a best friend who is constantly pressured
to stay away from him, and a school where he is one among only 14 white
kids. Conrad takes on the common childhood task of setting out to fix
his world, but like most of us, has to come to grips with the fact that
hes disadvantaged from the outset, in his case with color-blindness.
This helpful ailment allows Conrad to find some comfort in
the family of his best friend, Loop, fitting in and finding security there
even though he is white. When he finally is able to trust Loops
older brother Midnight (and perhaps himself) Midnight shares with him
a secret that changes Conrads life, in a beautiful revisiting of
the idea of a blind person teaching a seeing person how to see.
The novel deals with race, class, friendship, growing up and family life,
but more importantly, it offers a picture of urban life in its gritty,
raw and stark reality, without judging. The ultimate message of the book
is that no matter how grim or bleak it turns out to be, life must be faced.
What Winer does here is not unique, but how he does it may be. The novel
is driven by a delightful, hilarious, and dreadfully frank voice, and
the writing is careful and clear. Those readers who prefer plot-driven
pieces will be disappointed by the books broad scope, but many will
agree that Winers focus on voice is the only way to write an interesting
and viable novel from a childs perspective. This novel, like our
memories of childhood, is a patchwork of scattered moments rather than
a smoothly woven tale.
By far the most engaging aspect of the writing is the characters
speech. Readers will find themselves alienated at first by the awkward
bravado that fills Conrads own voice, but will soon learn to love
it as they are drawn closer into the world Winer has created. Confident,
brash, and yet charming, compassionate and hungry for life, Conrad Clay
makes The Color Midnight Made a refreshing new take on the coming-of-age
Joel Calahan 04