Local author Debra Darvick celebrates Jewish diversity in a new children’s picture book.
Debra Darvick celebrates diversity in the Jewish community and wants children to do the same.
Years ago, while waiting for her own two youngsters during Hillel Day School dismissal, she looked closely at the different Jewish faces, and the experience inspired a picture book showcasing what she saw and carrying that into racial diversity.
I Love Jewish Faces resulted from considerable research, and now, nine years later, she has reimagined the content to become We Are Jewish Faces (Apples & Honey Press; $15.95). The book, for children ages 2-6, has a changed rhyming text and new photos — one spotlighting a college graduate who was in the first edition as an elementary school student and another focused on her own granddaughter beginning school years.
“This book is stronger because I had more access to photos, which helped inspire the rewriting of the text,” says Darvick, who developed the “Dear Debra” column for the Jewish News. “I believe people are more aware of the racial diversity in the Jewish community, and kids of color need to see themselves in books with Jewish themes.
“The underlying message is that no person should ever tell a kid of color he or she doesn’t look Jewish. My own niece and nephew are blonde and blue-eyed, and people could say that to them. There are African American families who have been Jewish for generations, and many Jewish families have grown through international adoptions.”
Darvick, who lives in Birmingham and belongs to Temple Beth El and Congregation Beth Ahm, tapped into her husband’s photographic skills to help with the book. Martin Darvick, a retired attorney, has been exploring artistic photography; he is represented by a gallery in Arizona and has been juried into the local Our Town Art Show & Sale.
“I found many photos through database research,” says Darvick, a Kenyon College graduate who has worked for New York publishing houses and an array of Jewish publications. “I got in touch with the people represented in and by the pictures to get their permission for use, and that included parents and staff at a number of Jewish day schools.”
Besides emphasizing racial diversity, Darvick shows age diversity and references place diversity. People are photographed as they engage in religious and secular activities.
Among the sources of photos are two local rabbis: Dan Horwitz (son of JN Publisher Arthur Horwitz) and Steven Rubenstein.
Darvick is building on this recent book experience by working on two more children’s manuscripts and promoting conversation workshops developed with her husband. Picture a Conversation offers photo-featuring cards to prompt face-to-face talk — whether among family members, friends or co-workers.
“Each card in a set has an image on the front and a statement with three questions on the back to invite conversation,” Darvick says. “We’ve tested them with kids, and I would love for them to be a part of bringing disparate groups together.”
While We Are Jewish Faces is now available on Amazon, copies also are being distributed by PJ Library, part of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. The library provides free children’s books for subscribers delving into Jewish culture.