Hidden Religious Identity in Honor of Purim


Her Asenath book keeps trying to finish itself, keeps trying to reach the end of the story. She has published half of it as Asenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair. She has published another quarter of it as PeacesongDC. There is one more part to come. It is her story celebrating African American culture, Judaism, epic literature and academia. The end of the story is on its way to you.

When she was a little girl she would sit on the side of her father’s chair while he told her stories of Herodotus and Frederick Douglass and the Song of Roland and Charlemagne and Timbuktu and her parents told her that her nappy hair is like the hair of Beowulf and Samson and Chaka the Great. There are two special books that a Jewish bookstore owner made her father buy. Yes, made him! When he was a boy her father went to the book store to buy books about sports but this one time the store owner says, “No, don’t buy those books, buy these books by Dunbar and Douglass.” She believes that the bookstore owner knew that she would be born one day and so sent those books to her through her father. 

Once in South Hadley, on erev Shabbat, her parents visit from Washington, DC, and sit with her as she prays over the Shabbat candles. Her father says, “My mother always prayed that prayer on Fridays.” What? Her Methodist Christian grandmother prayed a Jewish prayer over the candles? Yes. A search through memories and libraries gives the answer. Her great grandmother’s great grandmother is Sarah Shulamit bat Asher. In every generation a Shulamit or an Olivia, always. From Spain to Portugal to Italy to Libya to the Geechees on the Georgia Sea islands, Olivia, Peace, Shulamit. Carol Olivia. Daughter of Oscar. A Song of Peace, may it be so. She names the book tracing her personal Jewish story, PeacesongDC, to attach it in genre to Lovesong by Julius Lester, of blessed memory.

She hopes it will not be long before she shares the rest of the story with you.

Shalom, Carolivia, Shirah Shulamit

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.