Carolivia’s publication include works for children and adults, fiction and non-fiction, and opera libretto. .

Publications for Children

Carolivia Herron in Phoenix, AZ Bookstore.
Carolivia Herron in Phoenix, AZ Bookstore.

Herron is best known as the author of the children’s book, Nappy Hair, which caused a major nationwide controversy about multicultural education and is still banned in some communities.


Her other children’s books are Little Georgia and the Apples and Always an Olivia. Little Georgia is a retelling of a humorous story from her mother’s childhood in Washington, DC in the 1930s. Little Georgia is Aunt Georgia’s First Catalpa Tale, a series of humorous stories of an African American family, the Johnsons, in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Washington, DC during the 1930s.

Cover of Always and Olivia

Always An Olivia retells Herron’s family story heard from her 103 year old Great Grandmother Olivia when Carolivia was nine years old. This children’s book describes the importance of her name in her family and her Jewish and the story of her West African (Geechee) ancestors, including the kidnapping of her Sephardic Jewish ancestor Sarah by Barbary pirates.

Works in Progress for Young Children

Forthcoming children’s books include: Green Grocer, Grilled Cheese, and Uncle Richard and the Peaches. All three of these stories are fictionalized events from Carolivia Herron’s childhood.

Green Grocer describes an eight year old girl, Sandy, seeking to learn more about Moses from the Jewish owner of a District Grocery Store in Mayfair Mansions, a neighborhood of Washington, DC. In Grilled Cheese six-year-old African American Sandy, in downtown Washington, DC with her mother, is finally able to have a long desired grilled cheese at a previously segregated lunch counter. Both Green Grocer and Grilled Cheese are young children’s versions of chapters in Carolivia’s autobiographical fiction, Peacesong.

Uncle Richard and the Peaches is a sequel to Little Georgia and the Apples and is part of the series, Aunt Georgia’s Catalpa Tales. “Georgia” is Carolivia’s mother, Georgia Herron, and she tells many humorous tales—she calls them catalpa tales for the tree in front of the house— of how she grew up in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Washington, DC with her seven siblings and her parents, Richard and Lucy Johnson.

The Catalpa Tales are written and published in partnership with the youth writing program, PAUSE (Potomac Anacostia Ultimate Story Exchange). PAUSE is a volunteer mentoring program that guides young people in the Washington, DC area in creative writing and multimedia projects. Please contact Carolivia at  carolivia At carolivia DOT org if you want to know more about PAUSE.

Publications for Adults and Young Adults

Libretto Cover Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson

Carolivia’s most recent publication (September 2012) is Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson, The Libretto. This opera, composed by Bruce Adolphe with the libretto by Carolivia Herron, was commissioned by the Washington National Opera and the Washington Performing Arts Society.

The published libretto has watercolor illustrations by Keshini Ladduwahetty. The opera premiered in 2009 at the Atlas Theater in Washington, DC. It was produced in 2011 as well with assistance from the Washington National Opera, The Washington Performing Arts Society, The Takoma Theatre Conservancy, and the Northgate Kiwanis Club of Washington, DC and Maryland.

Let Freedom Sing commemorates the famous 1939 concert of Marian Anderson on the Washington Mall at the Lincoln Memorial. Marian Anderson was not allowed to sing at Constitution Hall, in DC Public Schools, and it other venues because of her race. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and National Park Service Secretary Ickes arranged for Ms. Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial instead. Carolivia’s mother, Georgia (Jo) Johnson Herron, and her uncle Daniel (Jack) Johnson attended the 1939 concert. Carolivia grew up hearing the story of how Jack and Jo attended the concert, and she used this inspiring story as a backdrop for telling the life story of Marian Anderson.

Book Cover Thereafter Johnnie by Carolivia Herron

Carolivia Herron’s first novel, Thereafter Johnnie, was published in 1991 (Random House). In 1995 the American Library Association selected Thereafter Johnnie as one of the “Fifty Books That Must Be Read By Adults,” for books published between 1990-95. The Washington Post wrote of it: “Powerful, poetic . . . openly erotic . . . it has some of the grandeur of purpose of Ulysses, reaching, as it does, back to stories of early slavery and forward to an abandoned Washington.”

That same year she published Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimké (Oxford) as a text in the 40 volume Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Woman Writers.

Herron’s most recent scholarly publication is “What is African American Epic Tradition?” (in Rooms Outlast Us, Vol. 2, 2010). Since this journal is not readily available it will be posted in its entirety on this site once the publisher is notified. If you would like to receive an announcement when the essay is available please register on the home page to receive updates.

In 2012 Carolivia Herron completed her second adult novel, Asenath and Our Song of Songs, which is being edited for publication by Random House. Asenath brings together Carolivia’s African American Jewish perceptions with her love of epic literature. The novel relates how an African American graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania unites with Asenath, the Egyptian daughter of a priest who married Joseph in ancient Biblical times. Shirah Shulamit, an African American Jew, is unable to complete her dissertation on the ancient Egyptian Asenath because she (Shirah) keeps falling into her books and mingling with the epic heroines and heroes she is studying. The problem is solved when the epic poets, led by John Milton, sail to the future and write the dissertation for Shirah. Here’s hoping you get a chance to read it soon!

Works in Progress for Adults and Young Adults

African American Epic Tradition, three-volume scholarly work under contract to Stanford University Press.

Early African American Poetry, anthology contracted to Vintage Press.

Peacesong, autobiographical fiction, excerpts published in Bridges Magazine, Under One Canopy, and elsewhere.

Music Connections: Lyrics, Librettos

Carolivia has written the lyrics / librettos of the following works:

Book Cover The Journey of Phillis Wheatley

The Journey of Phillis Wheatley, Nkeiru Okoye composer with lyrics by Carolivia Herron. Commissioned by Boston Landmarks Orchestra, premier Boston Commons, 2005.

Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson, Bruce Adolphe composer, libretto by Carolivia Herron, Commissioned by Washington National Opera and Washington  Performing Arts Society, premier Atlas Theater Washington, DC, 2009.

An Ocean Can Dry into Silence, Ellen Harrison composer with lyrics by Carolivia Herron, premier Cincinnati, April 28, 2013.

“We Are Free,” song in the cantata Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society, composer Bruce Adolphe with lyrics by Carolivia Herron. Commissioned by the University of Michigan School of Social Work, premier University of Michigan, November 2011.

Musical Connections In Progress

The composer, Bruce Adolphe and Carolivia Herron are planning a new collaboration to create a full-length opera from her book, Always An Olivia. The opera will trace the Olivias from the shores of Tripoli in 1805 to the US Civil War near Portsmouth, Virginia. Carolivia was told this story of her Sephardic Jewish, West African, and Geechee heritage in Portsmouth, Virginia by her Great Grandmother Olivia Smith.

Works, World, and Ways of Carolivia Herron