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The Center for Fiction Presents: Igiaba Scego on The Color Line with Ayana Mathis

November 1, 2022

From internationally acclaimed Somali-Italian writer Igiaba Scego comes The Color Line, a gorgeous, haunting novel inspired by true events. We were thrilled to celebrate the new English translation of Scebo’s La linea del colore—which won the Premio Napoli Prize. The novel intertwines the lives of two Black female artists more than a century apart, both outsiders in Italy: In 1887, an African-American artist, Lafanu Brown, finds freedom in Rome as one of the city’s most established painters, after the rare opportunity to study, travel, and follow her dreams—but not without facing intolerance and violence. In 2019, an African-Italian art curator despairs over her Somali cousin’s quest to cross borders and reach Europe, while becoming more and more obsessed with the life and secrets of nineteenth-century painter Lafanu Brown. Maaza Mengiste calls the novel “a testament to the possibilities of liberation that rest in every act against injustice, and in every moment of artistic creation.”

Scego came to our stage for a discussion about her powerful exploration of what it means to be “other,” to be a woman, and particularly a Black woman, in a foreign country, yesterday and today. She was joined by author Ayana Mathis (The Twelve Tribes of Hattie).


  • Igiaba Scego © Simona Filippini - Eliana Cohen-Orth

    Igiaba Scego

    Igiaba Scego

    Igiaba Scego was born in Rome in 1974 to a family of Somali ancestry. She holds a PhD in education on postcolonial subjects and has done extensive academic work in Italy and around the world. Her memoir La mia casa è dove sono won Italy’s prestigious Mondello Prize. She is a frequent contributor to the magazine Internazionale and to Il Venerdì di Repubblica, a supplement to La Repubblica.

    Photo Credit: Simona Filippini

  • Ayana Mathis Author Photo Large cropped

    Ayana Mathis

    Ayana Mathis

    Ayana Mathis’s first novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Knopf, 2012), was a New York Times Bestseller, a 2013 New York Times Notable Book, NPR Best Book of 2013, and second selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 and was long listed for the Dublin Literary Award and nominated for Hurston/Wright  Foundation’s Legacy Award. Mathis’s nonfiction has been published in the the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Financial Times, Rolling Stone, and Glamour. Her work has been supported by the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the Bogliasco Foundation. She was a  2020-2021 American Academy in Berlin Prize Fellow. Mathis received her MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  She currently teaches at Hunter College’s MFA Program. Her second novel, The Unsettled, will be punished with Knopf in 2023.