In October I met with Kathy Nash at Charles B. Washington Branch before her scheduled presentation geared toward elementary-age kids. She memorably wore a bright yellow shirt, was promoting her book Big Box, Little Box: How One Little Box Finds His Way, and was in town for her 50th high school reunion; a pit stop at her old library was in order.
“Fifty years ago I would never have imagined, never [that my book would be in a library]. It’s exciting,” Nash said. Now she is a published author.
Several roads led Nash back to Washington Branch that day to share her books and advice. She participated in Summer Reading Program there as a child. Forty years ago, her cousin was a librarian there, and perhaps ultimately, a good friend attends Golden Threads Quilting every Tuesday.
From social worker to writer, Nash’s life has been about helping people. She decided at age fourteen to study social work. “I liked helping people,” she said. She went on to study undergrad at UNO and attended Denver School of Social Work to study group work. Soon thereafter she moved to her current city of Atlanta, where she eventually married and had three kids.
Situations involving her son and coauthor, Damien, inspired a series of books that would keep her desire and mission to help people alive.
While in graduate school Damien, a logistics company line supervisor, noticed that boxes wouldn’t get on the right truck if they were either mislabeled or went down the wrong path. Nash suggested he “write a book parallel to life, about how to load a truck.”
“He hung up on me,” Nash chuckled.
Damien didn’t exactly have confidence in writing; but Damien put pen to paper and in three hours a story emerged. He sent it to his mom a month later.
The result was a series of stories that aim to instill confidence in children by addressing unfair labels placed upon people. “We shouldn’t accept negative labels because we are all born with something to do and if we accept a negative label, we won’t ever get to do it. People need to know this when they’re young, when they’re growing,” Nash said. “There was a label placed on me growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. ’Blacks can’t write books, they can’t do these things…’ So I never thought of writing. And [my work] would never be in a library. I realized, ‘that label is not me.’ I took the label off, and now I’m writing books and publishing books for other people too.”
The first story in the Big Box, Little Box series takes place on a truck; the second is set on a boat, with the third and final to take place on a train. The stories are available in both DVD and book form. “[I want] to find all the different methods possible to get children interested in reading, not just one,” Nash said. “I would like to see books in other modes. It gives the children who learn differently a better opportunity. That would be something I champion. People are different. Everyone has a different intelligence.”
Just as Nash’s life has evolved due to changing circumstances, possibilities have emerged in Omaha and beyond. “Fifty years ago, if I’d contacted Washington Branch, they may not have let me come and speak … that type of a door is [now] open.”
“Our mission is to let people know that good wins out over evil,” Nash concluded.