Carolivia Herron: Asenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair

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A Stunning Work of Breathtaking GeniusThis is a work to be savored It can t be ushed through It defies skimming It demands attention and Essays One reflection and I mean that in the most positive way I ve neveread a book as ich in classical and contemporary allusion that emains somehow seamless These allusions are not showy or pedantic They are the indispensible threads of a very particular cloth This is one of the ways the sheer genius of the book takes one s breath away There s not a sentence that s out of place or uninteresting Some of its characters are ideas or songs of ideas and they are harmonious Other characters are like phenomena And yet I became attached to its principal subject a child who is a genius few comprehend An aspect of the novel takes place inside that mind which is a joy to encounter Along the way the The Kaya-Girl reader becomes enchanted by her mission given to her by celestial beings in the days before she takes on flesheally given to her as a kind of bribe to make her desire to take on flesh that is a uest to find the book heaven has not ead As much as this child is an icon of Volume 1 of the 2 volume novel Asenath and Our Song of Songs shares scenes from the life of Shirah Shulamit Ojero an African American Jewish girl and woman growing up in Washington DC Shirah eexamines and affirms her Judaic ancestry becomes a graduate student studying epic poetry at the University of Pen Forest and in the process of writing her doctoral dissertation discovers that hair as nappy as hers has existed only once before on the head of Ancient Egyptian Asenath The

Ntellect she is also an icon of misperceived humanityThe Omnibus Films reader wants to comfort her encourage her and slap down her tormentorsEventually that child grows up and becomes a graduate student A misunderstood underappreciated one of course Theemainder of the novel is a kind of intellectual journey that allows the student to find and develop her thesis topic But this is not the kind of novel that operates solely on the platform of plot There s a mystical poetic element And uite a lot about Graeco-Egyptian Magick race slavery freedom which sounds from an African American author like it must be of African Americanace slavery and freedom but it s not limited to that It s also a Jewish novel and a universal one I don t think the word Joycean is out of place here Suffice it to say that Herron s mystical musical epic poetic oh the poetry funny yes funny dramatic entertaining thought provoking style is completely and utterly uniueWhile I was Slave Again (Whispers of Refuge reading this book and Iead it slowly because there is no point in gobbling up something so ich it must be savored I decided it was a kind of tragedy that Herron is not writing in. Ntertwined stories of Shirah and Asenath becomes a uest for a book unknown in heaven and leads them through deserts mountains and many academic halls The characters seek the book not only at the University of Pen Forest in Philadelphia but also at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC West Cambridge University in Cambridge Massachusetts and at the Library of Sas in Egypt Asenath's story is mentioned briefly in the Hebrew Bible also known as the Old Testament as well.

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A different age The Joycean era perhaps Any era when literature as literature was deeply appreciated When there was an intellectual elite devoted to the discovery and enjoyment of demanding stunning works In that world Herron would be a super star In this I should say in closing that I ve known Carolivia Herron for than 20 years although we d lost touch with each other for many of them and only ecently econnected thru of all things Facebook The first thing you notice about Carolivia when you meet her is that she s a emarkable presence and mind Her light could blind Years ago I ead her novel Thereafter Johnnie and appreciated it It was a straightforward work compared to this one and on the difficult subject of incest Well done I never ead her Nappy Hair celebrated for both its wisdom and controversy But it s this novel where I find the mind I knew years ago the mind in full flower today the emarkable one of blinding light I look forward to Volume II which will center upon a different ancient incarnation of the protagonist of Volume I She is certain to be a completely uniue experience. As in contemporary texts such as Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann She is the daughter of the Egyptian priest Poti pherah and eventually becomes the wife of Joseph in Egypt Volume 2 of the novel focuses on the life of Asenath and her connection with Joseph Shirah the Pharaoh also known as the Directing Angel of the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies and the Pharaoh's Companion Nefertha of BlackWomanSong also known as BeeJay Skerett the Angel who Knows the Difference.