Carolivia Herron

(b. 1947)

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(b. 1947), educator, novelist, and short fiction writer.

Carolivia Herron was born in Washington, D.C. She earned her BA in English literature from Eastern Baptist College, an MA in English from Villanova University, and another MA in comparative literature and creative writing and her PhD in comparative literature and literary theory from the University of Pennsylvania. Herron has taught at Harvard University (1986–1990) and at Mount Holyoke College (1990–1992). In 1985, she won a Fulbright Post-Doctoral Research award, and a Folger Shakespeare Library Post-Doctoral Research award in 1989. She edited the Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimké (1991) as part of the Schomburg Library series on nineteenth-century African American women writers. Her short story, “That Place,” was published in Callaloo in 1987.

Herron's first and only novel to date, Thereafter Johnnie (1991), took eighteen years to complete. Taking place in Washington, D.C., the novel is set against an apocalyptic race war in the year 2000 and chronicles the decline of the black middle-class family. The protagonist, Johnnie, is a product of an incestuous relationship between her mother/sister and her father/grandfather. The novel breaks down the taboos and barriers against openly discussing incest and sexual abuse. Herron herself alleges that she was sexually abused by a male relative when she was three years old. Herron's lyrical style has been compared to Toni Morrison's. The stream of consciousness technique is reminiscent of James Joyce. Herron has also been compared to Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, and Ralph Ellison. Thereafter Johnnie gained its most critical acclaim for its mythic style. Herron is currently working on a three-volume study of the African American epic tradition.

Farai Chideya, “Two Tales of the Apocalypse,” Newsweek, 15 July 1991, 53.Andrea Stuart, “Memory and Prophecy,” New Statesman and Society 5 (5 June 1992): 40–41.Brenda O. Daly, “Whose Daughter Is Johnnie? Revisionary Myth-Making in Carolivia Herron's Thereafter Johnnie,” Callaloo 18:2 (Spring 1995): 472–491.Elizabeth Breau, “Incest and Intertextuality in Carolivia Herron's Thereafter Johnnie,” African American Review 31:1 (Spring 1997): 91:103.

Alisha R. Coleman

Subjects: Literature.

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