Books by Carolivia Herron

ALWAYS AN OLIVIA by Carolivia Herron
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

A little African-American girl named Carol Olivia, resembling a younger version of the author, listens as her great-grandmother Olivia shares a story from generations ago. It's about her own great-grandmother, a Jewish woman named Sarah who came to America from Italy, where her ancestors lived after fleeing persecution in Spain and Portugal. Sarah is kidnapped by pirates, and she and a young man, also kidnapped, eventually find themselves in the Georgia Sea Islands in 1805. They marry and live among the Geechee people, who came from West Africa. Although they no longer live as Jews, in each generation that follows, a daughter lights the Shabbat candles each Friday night as a remembrance. It's a lovely story that celebrates a family's unusual history. Unfortunately, the illustrations, although colorful, do little to enhance the tale. This will be useful for classroom studies and discussions with a rarely told perspective on families and coming to America. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
NAPPY HAIR by Carolivia Herron
Released: Jan. 1, 1997

Uncle Mordecai calls out the story of Brenda's hair—the nappiest hair in the world—at the family picnic, while everyone else chimes in with affirmations: ``Yep,'' ``You said it,'' and ``Ain't it the truth.'' At first they think Mordecai is making fun of Brenda's hair; when he says that combing it out sounds like crunching through deep snow with two inches of crust on top, somebody says, ``Brother, you ought to be ashamed.'' But soon it's clear that his only purpose is celebration: ``One nap of her hair is the only perfect circle in nature,'' hair that is ordained by God Himself. The text, illustrations, and overall design of the book work exceptionally well together. Uncle Mordecai's narration is set in a serif typeface, with the interjected responses set in a variety of serif and sans-serif typefaces for emphasis. The exuberant gospel rhythm of the text is matched by Cepeda's bold, color-saturated paintings, particularly his renderings of little Brenda. She's clearly a child who stomps through life with a lot of spunk and energy. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
THEREAFTER JOHNNIE by Carolivia Herron
Released: April 1, 1991

An ambitious first novel by literary scholar Herron that sets out to create, in established epic form, a mythic exploration of traditional institutions and racial identity in America. Divided into 24 books, the story alternates between passages of incantatory prose and the more realistic account of the Snowdon family, whose tragic legacy is meant to parallel that of other great mythic families. The Washington, D.C., Snowdon family is affluent and black; father John Christian is a noted heart surgeon; wife Camille, beautiful but passive, tends her roses; and the three daughters—Cynthia Jane, Patricia, and Eva—lead privileged lives of expensive schools and travel. But a family chosen for an epic role must suffer some monstrous flaw or tragedy, and the Snowdons, sensitive and gifted as they all are, certainly do. Father John Christian and daughter Patricia love each other too much, and their daughter, Johnnie, is born. Sister Eva, also incestuous in her own innocent way, is raped and goes temporarily mad; and deeply religious Cynthia Jane flees her family to become a nun. Meanwhile, Johnnie, mute for the first 14 years of her life, lives secretly with her mother in Georgetown. But when Patricia, overwhelmed by her bleak visions, drowns herself in the Potomac, Johnnie sets off on a mini-odyssey to find out the truth about granddad/daddy, the two aunts, and grandmother Camille, who watched it all happen. And because this is more than a story about a troubled family, an apocalypse is hinted at, the past is revisited, and Johnnie is ``condemned to immortality'' as a light haunting a destroyed Washington. Vividly written and bold in concept, but the thematic intentions here are too strained and the story not quite up to it. Herron has tried to do too much. Read full book review >