Morowa Yejidé: On Time of the Locust
Welcome to Akashic in Good Company, a regular feature where Akashic spotlights the remarkable people and places in today’s publishing industry. Over the past fifteen years, Akashic has worked with an amazing array of talented, hard-working, committed people and Akashic would not be the company it is today without their help and advice along the way. This week’s installment features a guest post from Morowa Yejidé, whose debut novel, Time of the Locust, was just released by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster.
I often start a story with an image and a question. In the case of my novel Time of the Locust, I asked the question, “If you couldn’t talk with someone, how would you tell them what you feel?” One day I was reading a magazine article and there was this photograph of an autistic boy looking up at the sky. There just seemed to be an entire world behind his eyes. Time of the Locust is an exploration of what that world might look like through the lens of magical realism. It is the story of a seven-year-old autistic boy and his supernatural relationship with his incarcerated father. We witness a family navigating many kinds of labyrinths.
Sephiri, the boy at the center of the story, is nonverbal and lives in what he calls the “Land of Air,” which is the everyday world where he is forced to try to process everything around him. He experiences daily life as a frustrating cacophony of sounds, faces, and chaos. But all is clear to him in the “World of Water,” his imagined world, where deep sea creatures know and understand him, where he can move about and express himself freely.
At the same time, we delve into the personal struggles of Brenda, a single mother raising Sephiri, and the ties that bind her in her realm. We plunge into the isolation of Horus, the boy’s father, and we share his battles and realizations from a cell. The reader gets a glimpse of the underworld of supermax. We explore the depths of solitude and see the world of the prison, the guards, and the inmates. Time of the Locust is an odyssey into solitary confinement, mental and physical health, and spiritual belief. It’s a journey into what we might not get to see under the cover of privacy, denial, or the unknown.
This novel touches on elements within our society that remain obscured from view even today. I believe that autism in particular is one of the last great mysteries of the mind, a seemingly impenetrable state. Solitary confinement is its own fortress, almost like an undiscovered country within America where what we are told goes on may not reflect the hidden world of those imprisoned. The other “worlds” in the story are made of the walls and moats people often build around themselves.
So Time of the Locust is a journey into the dualities of the lives of these characters: light and dark, land and water, hidden and visible, challenge and triumph. But more than that, we firewalk with these characters on their pilgrimage to their own truths, something I think people often spend a lifetime doing.
As a mother, I believe that parents want to do three things with their children: share and receive love, ensure well-being, and ultimately help them navigate the rough patches of the world. At its core, Time of the Locust lays claim to the magical dialogue of the heart, that intangible language between a parent and a child that transcends mental and physical barriers.
Find out more at www.morowayejide.com.
MOROWA YEJIDÉ is a literary fiction writer and a native of Washington D.C. Her debut novel Time of the Locust will be released June 2014 via Atria Books/Simon & Schuster and was a 2012 finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize. Her short stories have appeared in the Istanbul Literary Review, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, Underground Voices, the Adirondack Review, and others. Her story “Tokyo Chocolate” was nominated in 2009 for the Pushcart Prize, published in the best of the Willesden Herald Stories, and reviewed in the Japan Times. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She enjoys a life of adventure with her husband and three sons.
Posted: Jun 11, 2014
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