Black Chameleon: Memory, Womanhood, and Myth (Hardcover)
It's often said that Black women are magic, but what if they really are mythological?
Growing up as a Black girl in America, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton yearned for stories she could connect to—true ones, of course, but also fables and mythologies that could help explain both the world and her place in it. Greek and Roman myths felt as dusty and foreign as ancient ruins, and tales by Black authors were often rooted too far in the past, a continent away.
Mouton’s memoir is a praise song and an elegy for Black womanhood. She tells her own story while remixing myths and drawing on traditions from all over the world: mothers literally grow eyes in the backs of their heads, children dust the childhood off their bodies, and women come to love the wildness of the hair they once tried to tame. With a poet’s gift for lyricism and poignancy, Mouton reflects on her childhood as the daughter of a preacher and a harsh but loving mother, living in the world as a Black woman whose love is all too often coupled with danger, and finally learning to be a mother to another Black girl in America.
Of the moment yet timeless, playful but incendiary, Mouton has staked out new territory in the memoir form.
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“Her homage to Black womanhood has resulted in a work of art that defies categorization. Freed from facts by the transcendence of truth, Mouton has created an inventive genre-amalgamating form of myth, memoir and metaphor that sings . . .”
—New York Times Book Review
“Mouton transforms the Black women in her life into legends in this moving, genre-bending memoir. Her way of writing will have you rereading the pages as you continue to unlock and appreciate more and more of her work. It's hard to create something unique in the book world, but Mouton does so successfully.”
—Cosmopolitan, "30 Best Books of 2023 (So Far)"
“Black Chameleon interweaves mythology, family history, and marvelous realism, pushing the definition of memoir, but accurately demonstrating the possibilities inherent to a new form. This is the story of one Black woman in America, but Mouton accomplishes so much more.“
“Black Chameleon: Memory, Womanhood, and Myth bends the definition memoir by combining stories of growing up a Black woman in America with elements of the fantastical . . . in order to create something missing for many African Americans.”
—Houston Matters, NPR
“This is a loving memoir, lyrically and uniquely written . . . An ode to Black womanhood, it explores the complexities, depths, pains, joys and brilliance of living your truth.”
“It is certainly a book to be reread and is a powerful, enlightening memoir by an exquisite wordsmith.“
—Southern Review of Books
“Black Chameleon is a memoir, but unlike any you’ve ever read before. Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton reflects on her childhood in a lyrical form that makes it just as much a poem as a reflection on the Black woman’s experience in America.”
—Angela Johnson, The Root
“Black Chameleon feels like a monumental shift in how we make books about memory & myth. The writing here is at once exquisite, and rigorous, while the ideas splinter beautifully into intersecting quadrants of black womanhood. This is a genre shifting book.”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir
“Black Chameleon catches the light and adapts to it, ever more gloriously showing us to ourselves. Mouton's mysticism and magic is the birthright and survival of all Black women while being uniquely her own. This book kept showing me new shades of freedom.”
—Sonya Renee Taylor, author of the New York Times bestseller The Body is Not An Apology
“Honest, wise, and graced with aching beauty, Black Chameleon redefines what a memoir can be. Mouton tells a new story of Black womanhood by braiding personal history with folklore. The end result is nothing less than literary alchemy.”
—Zain E. Asher, CNN International Anchor and author of Where the Children Take Us
“Black Chameleon is a generous portal of a book, which allows a reader access to a rich population, of not just people, and not just geographies, and not just the spiritual, but also, the book is populated with an ever-present consideration of mercy. Mercy for the self, and for others. I emerged from this book overwhelmed with gratitude.”
—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America
“Black Chameleon fuses legend and memory to create a startling work in the tradition of Audre Lorde’s biomythography and Lynda Barry’s 100 Demons. Mouton's determination to lead a life fulfilled by poetry, love, and Black female strength makes this a gripping read. Candid and illuminating.”
—Carolyn Ferrell, author of Dear Miss Metropolitan
“Her prose crackles as she fuses fables with stories to create a spirited portrait of Black American womanhood. . . . Throughout, Mouton honors and complicates her heritage while seeking to understand her place within it: '[Some] would tell you that this is why you must work twice as hard to get half as much. But I know that half is not the holy grail. Tell a half-full belly that it is satisfied and see how it grumbles. I did not come from the wombs of half-baked women.' The writing is unconventional and exquisite, and sure to enthrall readers of Jesmyn Ward.”
“The book is lyrical, tender, and generous, celebrating the beauty of the oppressed with wildly imaginative and artfully rendered prose. . . . This innovative mix of myth and nonfiction is a pleasure to read. A formally inventive celebration of Black womanhood.”