There is power in allowing people to tell their own stories and not only power, but nuances that could never be captured by an outsider. Eden Royce gives us a radiant example of this needed ...
- Blackness Present5.0
There is power in allowing people to tell their own stories and not only power, but nuances that could never be captured by an outsider. Eden Royce gives us a radiant example of this needed phenomena in ROOT MAGIC. It’s a historical fantasy Middle Grade set in the 60s and the atmosphere comes off the text so thick, you feel like you’ve time traveled to South Carolina and can breathe the humid marsh air. A confession: I expected nothing less from Eden. I’ve been reading her work for years now and the rich cultural voice embedded in it is something that permeates all her work.
If you enjoy stories that feel like eating a decadent slice of cake, then ROOT MAGIC is the book for you. You can feel that its every word was crafted with love and respect. It is obvious that Eden is a writer that traffics in the beauty and poetic precision of language. From the mouthwatering descriptions of Gullah Geechee food to the many tender moments exchanged between the main character, Jezebel Turner, and her family members throughout the story, it’s hard not to see Eden’s mastery of using words to evoke deep emotions. In so many ways, reading this book felt like being warmly invited into someone’s home. I felt safe with Eden’s words and knew she was going to carry me to a beautiful ending.
The story is centered on twins, Jezzie and Jay, with the primary focus being on Jezebel. They’re standing right in that weird intersection of life where you’re still a child, but a lot of very adult things are starting to be hurled at you. And unfortunately, that has always been the lot of Black children in America which is a fraught topic I think Eden handles brilliantly by showcasing the determined, special love of the Black mother. Too often in media we are presented with Black children getting exposed to the full pain of the world with parents that are either too mired in their own hurts or are just flat out oblivious of what their children are going through. Eden refutes this emphatically.
The mother in this story is very much aware of what the tense world of the 1960s American south would burden her children with, and she actively does everything in her power to make sure that they still get to be children. She’s strict but not draconian. She’s allowed to have her own life with her own issues. She’s given emotions that sometimes confuse her children. But through it all you are keenly aware of the fact that she very much loves her twins and wants to protect them from the harm that the world would seek to deliver. Mama Turner is Eden casting a light on all the complex tensions pulling at Black motherhood in a world that tries to demean and discard them at every turn.
There is a scene in this book (and I won’t spoil it) where Eden takes a historical event of this period and painfully lays out what “sick and tired of being sick and tired” means for Black people in America. It’s a rending scene, but I’m glad Eden doesn’t pull away from these tough moments. If Black children had to live it, then white children can mostly certainly stand to read it.
But don’t think this is just a book of pain. No, it is most certainly not. There is joy, family, home cooked meals, Mama’s kisses, Grandma’s hugs and plenty of magical adventure.
And of course, at the core of the more fantastical elements is rootwork and what it means to the Gullah Geechee culture. Eden handles this element immaculately for obvious reasons. I’ve heard of boo-hags before but the description of one in this book is easily the most vivid I’ve ever seen. And I think if you know anything about the various branches of conjure work, you’ll find elements you recognize. If you’re curious to get a peek into this beautiful heritage or to help the children in your life to expand their horizons you can give them this lovingly written story. It’s certainly not one I will forget anytime soon.
Thistle & Verse
Loved the review. Looking forward to this book even more now. Currently reading Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith, which is another middle grade historical (think it’s more horror than fantasy) with an African American protagonist. Hoping that’ll tide me over until the January release