Thursday, January 14, 2021

Author Interview: Eden Royce

 Eden Royce is the author of the debut middle grade novel Root Magic

Publisher Description:

It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork.

Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs...and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.


About the Author:

Eden Royce is from Charleston, South Carolina and is a member of the Gullah-Geechee nation. Her work
 has appeared in various print and online publications and she is the recipient of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds grant.

Her debut MG Southern Gothic own voices novel, Root Magic, is forthcoming from Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins.

She now lives in the Garden of England with her husband and cat. When she's not writing or reading, she's probably roller-skating, watching quiz shows, or perfecting her signature dish for Masterchef. Sometimes all at once.


Interview with Eden Royce

As I was reading Root Magic, the story felt so timeless that I felt like much of it (with a few exceptions that I won't spoil for readers) could have been set in the present time. What made you decide to set Root Magic in 1963? 

I’m glad to hear it felt timeless. I set Root Magic in 1963 because it was a time of upheaval in not only the South but in the United States. A difficult time where life for many was slowly starting to change. It saddens me that so much of what the Turner family endures in the book – racism, prosecution for spiritual beliefs, and much more – still occurs to this day. It seems we haven’t progressed in some facets of our existence as much as we may have thought.

In your author's note at the end of Root Magic, you mention that rootwork isn't a religion but a spiritual practice. How do you distinguish religion from spiritual practice and why do you think people confuse the two? 

Most rootworkers I knew growing up were Christians. They practiced root and went to a church of their chosen denomination. Rootwork grew from enslaved Africans brought to the Southern coast of the United States who were not allowed to practice their African traditional religions (ATRs) or use their traditional medicines. Miraculously, some of those people were able to hold onto pieces of those ATRs and have passed them down through generations, practicing alongside their chosen religion. Rootworkers I know now are beginning to explore and study ATRs in order to delve further into the historical connections we have with Western and West Central Africa. Who knows? Perhaps in the future, rootwork may be recognized as a religion in its own right.

When you were writing Root Magic and thinking about how readers would respond to it, what was your ultimate hope for it? 

I try not to think about how readers will respond when I’m writing. It’s hard enough planning and creating a story without having to take into consideration what the potential response might be. My ultimate hope was to write a book based on stories of my ancestors that no one in my family had ever had the chance to tell before. I also wanted younger Gullah-Geechee children to see themselves, their environment, their folklore, and their language in a book. That’s a powerful thing to experience and something I didn’t have when I was growing up.

It is often said that the characters authors create in their novels are an extension of themselves. How would you say that the characters in Root Magic are a part of you? 

The characters in Root Magic are based on my ancestors, my family, and their experiences. Therefore they’re a part of me. After reading the book, my mother said Jez is a lot like I was at that age. How can I argue with that?

Since my blog is about food, books, and travel, I always like to end author interviews with the question: what is your favorite food, your favorite book, and your favorite place you've ever traveled? 

I have many answers for these but I’ll only choose one for each.

Favorite food: popcorn

Favorite book: Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime by J. California Cooper

Favorite place I’ve traveled: Bermuda


Check out the rest of the blog tour:

January 5 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub

January 6 We Need Diverse Books @diversebooks

January 7 Kimberly Rose @keideerose93

January 8 InkyGirl @inkyelbows

January 9 Seren Sensei @sensei_aishitemasu

January 10 Helping Kids Rise @HelpingKidsRise

January 11 Storymamas @storymamas

January 12 Bluestocking Thinking @bluestockingthinking

January 13 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read

January 14 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust @bethshaum

January 16 Kickbuttkidlit @KickButtKidLit

January 18 Moore Books w/B.Sharise @b.sharise

January 19 Writers' Rumpus @writersrumpus

 

Check out this excellent Educator's Guide with lots of history and background information. 

 

Monday, January 11, 2021

It's Monday! What are you reading 1-11-21



It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at 
Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.


I've recently read and loved:
A book filled with heart, humor, and girl power. This is definitely a series I will see through to the end.

As a person with anxiety, this book made me feel seen (while laughing about it).

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch by Heidi Tyline King, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

I love when picture books teach me something about history that I had no clue about. This book made me want to visit American Beach in Florida, which is now part of the National Park Service for being a beach that Black Americans could visit during the Jim Crow era.


Currently reading:

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett


Friday, January 1, 2021

One Little Word 2021

 I didn’t live up to my One Little Word for 2020*, which was BLOOM. I mean, all I did in 2020 was survive. Which is OK. We were living through a pandemic. There was no blooming happening here. When I thought about my word for 2020 last January, I thought about the famous Ana├»s Nin quote that goes: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Well, it turns out this was a year to remain tight in that bud. To listen to my body, my mind, and my heart that told me there will be other times to blossom, that now is a time of safety and survival.
And so, my One Little Word for 2021 is: LISTEN.

*I will point out that my friend Jen Ansbach said the following after she read my assessment of not living up to my word for 2020:

I'm not sure it's fair to say you "didn't live up to" your word last year. That's a pretty harsh judgment of my friend, who had no idea there was a global pandemic headed this way. I would just point out that for some plants, like poinsettias, the foliage IS the bloom for us, and surviving means you didn't lose all your leaves and shrivel up, either. Maybe you just had to be a different flower than you thought you might be last December. Sending you love and light for the new year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Beth's Favorite Things of 2020

2020 has been the year of staying home. As much as this introvert is a homebody, there has been very little joy for the reasons we've been staying home. So in the same vein as Oprah's Favorite Things, here are Beth's Favorite Things. Because "The Things That Made Beth's 2020 More Bearable" just didn't have the same ring to it. 

*Most of the provided links are affiliate links, which means I earn a small percentage if you purchase from that link. 

These masks from The Stockist that are made of soft, cooling material against your skin. 

These mask frames to allow for better breathing while wearing face masks.

A pulse oximeter. Because COVID. 

A temporal thermometer because I was tired of taking my temperature before work every day with my old under-the-tongue thermometer

This book that has taught me to embrace my sensitivity rather than admonish it. 

Having a weighted blanket has been important for helping me when my anxiety is high. 

The decision fatigue struggle is real. Which is why meal kits are a godsend. I love cooking but I don't loving deciding what to cook. We have accounts with Home Chef, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh, but Home Chef is my favorite. 

This enamel cast iron Dutch oven from Ayesha Curry that is not only more reasonably priced than Le Creuset, but it's beautiful too.


Stop using disposable K Cups. Get these reusable ones so you're not throwing away so much plastic every week. 

This message board that is both magnetic and a pin board

This 3-in-1 charger for my phone, Apple watch, and Air Pods.

What have been your favorite things of 2020? Or the things that made 2020 more bearable? 

Monday, December 14, 2020

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12-14-2020

It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.


Last week I read and loved:
The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers
The Barnabus Project puts me in mind of the work of Shaun Tan, but with more accessibility for younger readers. While Tan's work is beloved and critically acclaimed, it can be quite ambiguous and avant garde for readers to grasp who don't yet think abstractly, so this book could be a good reading ladder to Tan's work.

I Am the Storm by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell
Gorgeous, powerful text with equally moving illustrations

My Hair is Magic by M.L. Marroquin, illustrated by Tonya Engel
An absolutely stunning book that affirms for young Black girls that they are perfect just the way they are, the way their hair grows naturally


All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier
There are some books you just have to read to understand the power and profundity of words. After a few pages, I had a hard time reading through all my tears. I’m so glad this book exists.


Currently reading:

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner


Currently reading with my ears:

Root Magic by Eden Royce 


Monday, November 30, 2020

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11-30-2020

  

It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.


I recently read and loved:
 In an enjoyable but firm conversational tone, Frederick Joseph designed this book to be frank with readers, the way a good friend might be if you did something unintentionally hurtful and now must make amends. It's no longer ok for white people to be oblivious and "color blind" to race, and Frederick Joseph lays out why that is in The Black Friend.


Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen
A timely and timeless book that speaks to the democratic value of the right to protest


On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex
A humorous cumulative tale that would be perfect for fans of Stuck by Oliver Jeffers


Carmen and the House That Gaudi Built by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer
A fictional story based on fact, revolving around the work of the famous and beloved architect Antoni Gaudi.


Thao by Thao Lam
An innovative picture book about the frustrations of having a name that most Americans don't know how to pronounce so instead make a mockery of. Pair this book with Your Name is a Song to discuss the sacredness of names and the need to learn them rather than feign ignorance. My only criticism is that I wanted the book to be longer. Just as I was leaning in and loving the story, I felt like it ended.


I Am! Affirmations for Resilience by Bela Barbosa and Edal Rodriguez
A brief and profound mindfulness meditation for young children and even not-so-young children (and maybe even some adults too)


My First Day by Phung Nguyen Quang, illustrated by Huyuh Kim Lien
A gorgeous tale about an unusual (for Americans) but typical (for a Vietnamese child living along the Mekong River) trip to school. I wish the illustrator lived in the U.S. because I would love to see this book eligible for the 2022 Caldecott.


The Problem with Problems by Rachel Rooney, illustrated by Zehra Hicks
Charming rhyming text that addresses problems as adorable creatures that are more easily addressed than we think they are. A sweet and empowering way for kids to face their problems head-on.



Lubaya's Quiet Roar by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philemona Williamson
Teachers, can we talk? How can we honor our introverts and quiet thinkers in the classroom without forcing their loud and vocal participation? When I read Quiet by Susan Cain many years ago, I realized that the world caters to and accommodates extroverts and forces introverts to try to change to be loud and brash and overly assertive in sharing their opinions. That’s not how introverts operate. And we need to live in a world that makes space for both the quiet and the loud thinkers. I’m CONSTANTLY thinking of ways to honor the Lubayas in my classroom. I want them to find ways to feel comfortable sharing their views and being part of the discussion while not forcing it on them. Because sometimes their quiet presence can be just as profound and influential as the extroverts.


Currently reading: 

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron


Currently reading with my ears:

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Monday, October 26, 2020

It's Monday! What are you reading? 10-26-2020

 

It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Last week I read and loved:
What Grew in Larry's Garden by Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich
This book had my heart. A little girl named Grace likes to help her neighbor Larry with his beautiful backyard garden and throughout their friendship, they find ways to problem-solve not only in the garden, but in the community as well.

This Old Dog by Martha Brockenbrough, illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo
A succinct, yet stunningly written and heartfelt book that reminds us all what a privilege it is to love an old dog.

Saturdays are for Stella by Candy Wellins, illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan
George loves that he gets to spend every Saturday with his Grandma Stella. They do all sorts of fun (and sometimes not-so-fun) things together. Until one day Stella is no longer there to spend every Saturday with. And now George has decided to cross out all the Saturdays on his calendar. That is, until a new Stella enters his life. A story that is a testament to the beauty and heartbreak of the cyclical nature of life.


The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
It's really difficult to explain the emotional impact of this story without reading it for yourself. It manages to be lighthearted while also possessing a gravitas that is not overly didactic when it comes to how we should treat refugees and asylum seekers. This story is going to linger in my mind for a long time.


Peanut Goes for the Gold by Jonathan Van Ness, illustrated by Gillian Reid
Jonathan Van Ness, of Queer Eye fame, has created a lovely story about a guinea pig who identifies as nonbinary and marches to the beat of their own drum. This isn’t so much a teaching book as it is a book that seamlessly utilizes the singular they pronoun as a way to normalize it in speech and writing for kids and adults alike. There is no direct instruction here about what it means to use the singular they. it is just used in the story and is therefore normalized.


I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith
A moving poem about a boy with a stutter. The writing uses accessible figurative language to give the reader an opportunity to better understand what it means to live with a stutter.


Currently (Still) Reading:
I Have Something to Tell You by Chasten Buttigieg



Currently (Still) Reading with My Ears:
Parkland by Dave Cullen