Why This Matters: Charlotte author Patrice Gopo was named a Barnes & Noble Fall 2018 Discover Great New Writers’ selection. An ASC Regional Artist Project Grant helped her in her work.
By Bernie Petit
Charlotte author Patrice Gopo didn’t start writing out of passion for the written word, but out of necessity.
“I had these stories burning within me that I felt I needed to tell,” she said. “I felt like it was my responsibility to take these stories and put them out in the world.”
Recently, bookseller Barnes & Noble decided her stories deserve a wider audience, naming Gopo one of its Fall 2018 Discover Great New Writers’ selections. Walk into one of the stores and you’ll find her new book, “All the Colors We Will See,” in a special display near the front.
“It’s a huge honor. When you put your work out into the world, you don’t know how people will react to it,” Gopo said. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, people out there have read these words and believed these are words that other people – strangers – should be reading.’”
The book is a collection of essays, several of which appeared in other publications and formats, including “For My Husband Driving Down a Mountain,” which was read on Charlotte’s NPR station – WFAE 90.7 FM – in 2016.
The short stories explore Gopo’s experience growing up the child of Jamaican immigrants in Anchorage, Alaska, and the complexities of identity, immigration and race. She also tackles marriage and divorce, accepted beauty standards and faith.
When grouped together, the collection offers nuanced perspectives on some of the most pressing societal issues of our time.
“I think I have a very unique voice to add to these discussions,” she said. “My writing is able to provide a pathway for people to engage in these topics.”
Her first words came shortly after the birth of her oldest daughter nine years ago, jotting down thoughts between feedings and diaper changes. Her voice became more pronounced four years ago, when her writing began to feel like much more than a hobby.
She took a writing class and began noticing themes in several of the essays she’d written. That’s when she first thought a book was possible.
She sought other opportunities to support work towards her newfound goal. In 2016, she received an ASC Regional Artist Project Grant (“the first grant I applied for for writing,” she said) to join in and learn from the vibrant writing community at the Wildacres Writing Workshop and Retreat in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
“It was during that time that I felt something shift,” she said. “I realized that I can do this, I can really write this collection and it’s really important for me to work in this direction.”
In 2017, she received a North Carolina Arts Council fellowship. By that time, her essays had appeared in numerous publications, including online in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Her writing caught the attention of a literary agent. You know what happened next.
Now that her book is published, Gopo hopes it can help readers appreciate both the places where our universal stories overlap and where our individual stories diverge.
“We’ve almost gotten to the point that we equate differences with fear,” she said. “It doesn’t mean for me to have another story is denying what we share. When we think of building a better society, I think we have to embrace our differences and realize our commonalities, too.”
Meet the Author and Get a Signed Copy of Her Book
Patrice Gopo, author of “All the Colors We Will See,” will take part in a book Reading and Interview at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 at Main Street Books (126 S. Main St., Davidson). Her fellow NC Arts Council Literature Fellow Bryn Chancellor will ask her questions about the book and the topics she raises in her writing.
Gopo will host “Identity: Telling the Stories That Form Us” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 at Beatties Ford Road Regional Library (2412 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte). The workshop will help participants tap into memories about identity formation, formulate personal stories about the universal experience of grappling with identity and belonging and develop listening skills as other participants share their stories about identity formation.
Signed copies of her book are available at Park Road Books (4139 Park Road, Charlotte).