Local Author Writes Memoir of Growing Up In Bakersfield
By Darlene L. Williams, Contributing Writer
BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—Rejection, abandonment and a life filled with painful secrets may not be your story, but for Author, Judy Fambrough-Billingsley, it’s hers. The self-published book, “Too Brown To Keep” (A Search for Love, Forgiveness, and Healing) is a memoir of Billingsley’s journey to find love, forgiveness, and healing.
Billingsley’s inspiration for writing the book, she said, was to find answers to the “normal natural question all of us humans have; who am I?”
“When you grow up with your own birth parents-you automatically get those answers, but I didn’t get that. I never saw baby pictures of myself so, that answer to who am I was always in the back of my mind,” Billingsley said.
Billingsley was born Ute Schaab in Friedberg, Germany, shortly after World War II, to a white German mother and a black American soldier. Judy became one of many “unwanted brown babies” abandoned by their mothers. She spent much of her early childhood in a Kinderheim (orphanage) until her adoption by American parents, Joe and Marie Fambrough.
“There were about five-thousand (5,000) of us biracial children up for adoption. The Kinderheimes were full of us “brown babies”, that’s what the newspapers called us, Billingsley explained. “What’s unique about us is, the German government and the American government saw us as a problem, and they wanted to get rid of us because we were overflowing in the Kinderheimes.
Billingsley and, sister, Irmgard were both adopted by Joe and Marie, who the author lovingly referred to as, “mom and dad.”
Mr. Fambrough, a local business man, and housing contractor, for which Fambrough Avenue in Bakersfield and Fambrough Street in Newhall, California; are his namesakes, saw an advertisement in the Afro-Baltimore newspaper about the “brown babies” in Germany who were up for adoption.
“I had great parents, great parents.” Billingsley stated. “Mom couldn’t have children and after seeing the newspaper ad of my sister and I; they brought us to America.”
Billingsley shared with the Bakersfield News Observer (BNO) several well preserved newspaper clippings that her father had saved for her. Amid the treasure, was a 1953 news article from the
Bakersfield Californian; the first newspaper to publish the plight of the two “brown babies” from Germany and the Bakersfield business owners who adopted them.
Ancestry searches to find both the birth mother and father who rejected and abandoned Billingsley lead her to places that would prove more painful than she could ever imagine; a Nazi concentration camp, and the “discovery of many family secrets and public rejection from new found discovered family.”
“Too Brown To Keep” has received rave reviews from Billingsley’s peers and colleagues as well as an invitation to speak at Rutgers University, an Ivy League, in New Brunswick, New Jersey in April. She is currently working on two additional books.
Billingsley is scheduled for a book signing, Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at Dagny’s Coffee Shop 1600 20th Street. The book can be purchased on Amazon.com/Local Bookstores, or contact Judy at http/www.judyfambroughbillingsley.com.
*Judy Fambrough-Billingsley was raised and educated in Bakersfield, California and graduated from Garces Memorial High School. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, a California Lifetime Teaching Credential from CSUB, a Master’s degree in Education Administration from the University of La Verne, and a genuine love for teaching and education. Billingsley is the proud mother of two successful sons, two successful daughters-in-law and “Nana” to four grandsons.*