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Inwood Artist Tackles Diversity Issues in Children's Book

By Carla Zanoni | June 22, 2012 8:11am
The Best Colors is on display at MXYPLYZYK in Greenwich Village in celebration of NYC Pride Week.
The Best Colors is on display at MXYPLYZYK in Greenwich Village in celebration of NYC Pride Week.
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Barbara Taff

INWOOD — When Barbara Taff moved to Manhattan during the 1970s she came with visions of living in a more diverse community than the one where she grew up in upstate New York. 

Taff, a lesbian woman of Jewish faith, experienced anti-Semitism as a child and believed the city could be a haven. 

“I wasn’t really able to become a Girl Scout, wasn’t invited to parties,” she said of her childhood in Rochester. “I came to New York wanting to be a part of a diverse community.” 

With that hunger for inclusion and a celebration of people’s differences in mind, Taff set out to create “The Best Colors,” which tackles the complex subject in a simple way that is accessible to “children up to 100,” she said. 

“There is so much prejudice about the color of your skin and other differences,” she said. “It’s like saying a banana is a better fruit than an orange, it’s absurd. It’s more about what we can bring to the table.” 

The Inwood resident, who has worked as an artist and graphic designer for years, said she was influenced by the children’s book “The Dot and The Line,” by Norton Juster, and hoped to bring its simple approach to the difficult of diversity. 

Taff began her career as an art teacher and used her experience as an artist and graphic designer to fold a color-mixing lesson into a greater message. 

“It’s not only an active art lesson, but opens a conversation about diversity,” she said. 

She began the book years ago, but finished it last year when a lull at work left her with time on her hands. 

The artist and author, who quit being an art teacher after feeling she was too young and inexperienced to teach its true meaning, said the book’s message is a culmination of her life experience and knowledge about the Arts. 

“The book represents lots of things, it’s like me, I’ve never fit into one thing purely and neither does the book,” she said. “I’m just, I guess, a misfit.” 

“The Best Colors” is now on display in the window at the quirky West Village store MXYPLYZYK, at 125 Greenwich Ave. at West 13th Street, for NYC Pride Week

Taff will sign copies of the book on Saturday, June 23, from 3 to 6 p.m.