‘She ready’: Comedian, actress Tiffany Haddish reads her children’s book at Tustin Library
Comedian, actress and author Tiffany Haddish is best known for her catch phrase: “She ready.”
About 994 of her fans were ready too, as they gathered at Tustin Library on Aug. 19 for storytime with the Emmy and Grammy award winner. Haddish stopped at the public library ahead of her comedy show at the Irvine Improv to read from her children’s book, “Layla, The Last Black Unicorn.”
“This is a way bigger deal than having two sold-out shows,” Haddish remarked to the audience that included infants, young children and their parents and grandparents.
Haddish’s storytime included a fun preshow with Razzle Dazzle the Unicorn and some unicorn jokes. OC Public Libraries’ public information officer, David Lopez, said the library system’s free author events are meant to inspire reluctant readers.
“For many, these events are the community’s first opportunity to hear directly from an author or celebrity. These events connect children and families to literary experiences at OCPL,” said Lopez. “They transcend literacy as families enjoy interaction and space, making the library the premiere place to be and not just a place to read.”
“Layla, The Last Black Unicorn” is the first of a three children’s book deal Haddish has with Harper Collins and features a young unicorn who is teased by the other unicorns at school for being “woodsy.”
“Now ‘woodsy’ is my way of saying ‘ghetto,’” Haddish quipped.
The title borrows from the name of Haddish’s 2018 memoir, “The Last Black Unicorn,” which made the New York Times best-seller list. Haddish also narrated the companion audio book, which was nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award for “Spoken Word Album.” The nomination itself was a win for Haddish, who has openly shared her struggles with reading and touched on the subject on Saturday.
“I am not the most perfect reader,” said Haddish. “I didn’t really learn how to read until I was 16, so for me to read out loud is a little bit stressful.”
Haddish said it was her drama teacher who realized she couldn’t read and helped her practice reading out loud each day.
“I wish my drama teacher was here right now,” Haddish said before she began. “She would be really proud.”
Haddish did go on to win a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 2021 for “Black Mitzvah,” making her the second Black woman to ever win a Grammy for Best Comedy Album as well as the first to win since Whoopi Goldberg won in 1986. She previously took home an Emmy in 2018 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her appearance as a guest host on Saturday Night Live.
Some children followed along in their own copies of the book while Haddish read aloud. The theme of the book deals with identity and self-acceptance. Although being the last black unicorn makes her stand out, Layla also discovers it is among the things that make her unique and special.
“Layla is a representation of who I was as a little girl,” said Haddish. “I always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t fit in. Kids used to pick on me and make fun of me all the time. I didn’t realize until I got older that being different is a good thing. Your difference makes a difference.”
Haddish is African American and a member of the Jewish community and her perspective as an author is an important part of the public library mission.
“Young readers benefit from diversity in literature,” said Lopez. “Books can be portals into a new time and place but can also be mirrors into or of the familiar. Characters like Layla welcome imagination, but most importantly, possibility for young readers — and big kids, too.”
Lopez said it is also important for kids to see themselves in stories.
“Representation matters to readers,” said Lopez. “It is as necessary in the authors we include as with the characters that appear in the books. We all want to find validation and to know that our voice is important.”
Haddish signed books and took questions after the reading. Bridget L. McCullough and her husband, Derrick McCullough, traveled from San Diego to bring their grandson to the event.
“I wanted bring our grandson because we are fans of Tiffany,” said McCullough. “We know her as a comedian and an actor but to see her as an author is great.”
McCullough also said she appreciated Haddish sharing about her personal struggles and how she has overcome them.
“A lot of times we see celebrities as one way, but I love that she has different sides,” said McCullough. “It is important to let the children know that is not all just glitz and glamour. It is important to see that some celebrities do take time to encourage children to read.”
Lopez agrees that reading can be a powerful tool, particularly for children.
“For young readers especially, navigating youth can be complex, and it could be a simple book that changes someone’s life or saves it,” Lopez said.
OC Public Libraries has a full calendar of literacy and enrichment programming for all ages year around. For more information on all programs and special events, visit ocpl.org.
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