Banned in Brooklyn: The Judaic Journey of Nappy Hair from Washington, DC to NYC
Carolivia Herron ‘s children’s book, Nappy Hair, which caused a major national controversy on diversity education in 1998, was published while Carolivia was rediscovering and affirming her Jewish identity. As she prepared the book for publication, she purposely coded it to attract Jewish audiences in addition to the African American and cultural diversity audience that is obvious from its description of kinky hair and its use of African American call and response. For example, she replaced the name Richard with the name Mordecai, included a reference to the Hebrews leaving Egypt and slavery, and refused to let Random House include a picture of God (no graven image). In fact, there is an embedded Judaic journey in the book itself as well as in the impetus Jewish readers gave to the book and to the author’s life journey after the controversy erupted in a Brooklyn, NY school in 1998. The book was banned in Brooklyn and elsewhere because community members didn’t want a white teacher teaching about black hair. The banning catapulted the book onto the best seller list, and sent Carolivia to Jewish communities nationwide – – sparking a conversation that expanded the Judaic journey of Nappy Hair from a backyard picnic in Washington, DC, to the media extravaganza that is New York City.
Dr. Carolivia Herron is a Jewish African American native Washingtonian, whose publications include, Thereafter Johnnie, Asenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair, Always An Olivia (a story of her Sephardic ancestors), Peacesong DC, and the libretto of Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson (Bruce Adolphe, composer). Thereafter Johnnie has recently (July 2016) been identified as one of the 100 must read Jewish novels. Her Ph.D in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, focused on the epic literary genre, and she has held professorial positions at Harvard University, Mt. Holyoke College, Chico State University, the College of William and Mary, and several Central African Universities. Currently she is the president of Street to Street EpicCenter Stories and directs the EpicCentering the National Mall project that helps youth of Washington, DC interconnect their stories and art with our national epic as expressed in the Washington Mall.
Originally published here: https://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2016/12/15/banned-brooklyn-judaic-journey-washington-dc-new-york-city