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 Anaïs 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.