Columbus writer hopes recent book encourages children of 'nontraditional families’

·5 min read
Sade Harvison is an author who wrote a children's book, "The Power of a Friend," about growing up without a mother and meeting a friend who helped her get through it. She also wrote "Young Black King" about building self-esteem in Black boys.
Sade Harvison is an author who wrote a children's book, "The Power of a Friend," about growing up without a mother and meeting a friend who helped her get through it. She also wrote "Young Black King" about building self-esteem in Black boys.

Sade Harvison was raised by a loving, prayerful grandmother who kept a closet full of church dresses just for her.

Harvison was encouraged by her third-grade teacher, Mrs. Shaw, the first instructor who told her she was smart.

And she was nurtured by her father’s girlfriend, who introduced her to V.C. Andrews and other authors she would grow to love.

But Harvison still yearned for her mother, who struggled with addiction and was unable to care for her children.

“I had everything I needed,” said Harvison, 33, who grew up on Columbus' South Side. “But emotionally, it was hard for me to be growing up without my mom.”

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Sade Harvison wrote her first two books, "The Power of a Friend" and "Young Black King," to inspire young people, especially African American children.
Sade Harvison wrote her first two books, "The Power of a Friend" and "Young Black King," to inspire young people, especially African American children.

Now a writer, Harvison captured her experience growing up in her first children’s book, “The Power of a Friend,” published in July by Xulon Press. It was followed last month by her second book, “Young Black King,” which is dedicated to her three sons — ages 5, 11 and 15 — whom she is raising on the South Side.

Both books can be ordered at www.allthingslotuz.com.

Harvison said her goal is to inspire young people, especially those who look like her.

“I am speaking to African American kids who are growing up in the inner city in nontraditional families,” she said. “I don’t want them to feel like they’re alone.”

“The Power of a Friend” is centered on a little girl named Lo’Tuz, who has a mother “somewhere lost in the world” and thus feels different from her peers. It’s what Harvison went through when she attended the since-closed Koebel Elementary School on the South Side.

“When I went to school, I saw kids getting dropped off by moms,” she said. “At assemblies, it was my grandmother and my aunts and my dad. It was never my mom there. I did not have anybody my age that I knew of that was going through (that).”

That all changed when she met Krystal Collins at cheerleading practice for the Columbus Raiders, a community youth football program. Collins was being raised by a churchgoing grandmother on the North Side, so she could relate to Harvison.

“It was just very natural,” Harvison said. “We would swap our mom stories. We also would talk about how we missed our moms. We bonded over a common pain.”

The story of their friendship unfolds in Harvison’s book. Columbus residents will recognize true-to-life visual details, including the Raiders’ cheerleading uniforms and the domed athletic complex in Mock Park where they practiced and performed at games.

There also are depictions of downtown Columbus and Cleveland Avenue, which is near where Harvison remembers living with her mother before she moved in with her grandmother at 6 years old.

“It's really for people that grew up here,” Harvison said. “It takes them back down memory lane, which is what I wanted it to do.”

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For Harvison’s aunt Yvette Harper, the book provided deeper insight about Harvison and her siblings.

“I know both my mom and her dad tried to make the best life possible for them,” said Harper, 54, of the Far East Side. “But (Harvison) never expressed that she felt that way. And I never knew Krystal felt that way, either. I guess from the outside looking in, you don't realize just how much someone will still miss their parent, even if they're being well-taken care of.”

Harvison said she has been writing poetry since middle school, but didn’t pursue becoming an author until recently. Prior to the pandemic, she was an instructional assistant for Columbus City Schools.

During quarantine, she decided to follow her passion and use the time to write the majority of what are now 20 books dedicated to the Lo’Tuz character. She hopes to release that series and turn it into a cartoon. (Lo’Tuz already has a theme song, written by local rapper Trek Manifest.)

“I know COVID and quarantine were devastating for a lot of people in the world,” Harvison said. “But I came alive during that time. I tapped into something so creative in me that I hadn't tapped into in so long. I was like, ‘This is it. I'm putting it all into this.’”

Harvison eventually left her job. She cashed out some of her savings and used stimulus money to put out both “The Power of a Friend” and “Young Black King.”

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Illustrated by local artist Troy Cherry and self-published in December, “Young Black King” encourages Black boys to love their skin, learn their history and embrace their power and intelligence.

“I grew up with a lot of boys in the inner city,” Harvison said. “I know how the neighborhoods affect them and how they can feel trapped in it. I wanted to create something that uplifted them to let them know that you are not what the world says you are.”

Two of the boys in her life growing up were her brothers, Victor and Roy Harvison.

Victor, 35, of the North Side, said he admires how his sister was able to turn their situation into something positive.

“Instead of running to drugs, alcohol or other things we witnessed in our family to escape, she channeled her pain into a way that could help others,” he said. “I think it’s amazing.”

And as someone who rarely read about people who looked like him growing up, he emphasized the importance of diversity in children’s books.

“It’ll make you have empathy if you’re not part of the culture, and find inspiration if you are a part of the culture,” he said.

His sister said she may write a novel someday, but for now, her focus is on reaching young people.

“Most of the writers that I admire, they are more formally educated than me,” she said. “They didn't grow up like me. (But) you do not have to be a literary genius to write. You have to be a great storyteller.”

This story is part of the Dispatch's Mobile Newsroom initiative, which is currently focused on Driving Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Visit our reporters at the Driving Park branch library and read their work at dispatch.com/mobilenewsroom, where you also can sign up for The Mobile Newsroom newsletter.

ethompson@dispatch.com

@miss_ethompson

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Sade Harvison children's book for nontraditional families