Born Bright

Born Bright

St. Martin’s Press
256 pages • $26.99
ISBN: 978-1-250-06992-4

A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America

C. Nicole Mason

“I’m glad that Mason wrote this urgent memoir, showing not only what poverty looks like but what it feels like as well . . . You will be far better off after having read Born Bright, not just because it’s a powerful story, but also because it’s one so seldom heard.”—Essence 

Born in the 1970s in Los Angeles, California, C. Nicole Mason was raised by a beautiful, but volatile 16-year-old single mother. Early on, she learned to navigate between an unpredictable home life and school where she excelled. By high school, Mason was seamlessly straddling two worlds. The first, a cocoon of familiarity where street smarts, toughness and the ability to survive won the day. The other, foreign and unfamiliar with its own set of rules, not designed for her success. After moving to Las Vegas to live with her paternal grandmother, she worked nights at a food court in one of the Mega Casinos while finishing school. Having figured out the college application process by eavesdropping on the few white students in her predominantly Black and Latino school along with the help of a long ago high school counselor, Mason eventually boarded a plane for Howard University, alone and with $200 in her pocket. While showing us her own path out of poverty, Mason examines the conditions that make it nearly impossible to escape and exposes the presumption harbored by many—that the poor don’t help themselves enough.

© Dewayne Rogers Photography

C. Nicole Mason is the Executive Director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest (CR2PI) and she has taught at Spelman College and New York University. Her writing and commentary has appeared in major newspapers and outlets across the country, including MSNBC, CNN, The Nation, The Miami Herald, and numerous NPR affiliates, among others.


C. Nicole Mason discusses Born Bright, her memoir that explores the shifting narratives of black girlhood and womanhood in today’s society.