Cover art for “Children of Blood and Bone” written by Tomi Adeyemi.

Anahzsa Jones | Editor-in-Chief

Black book nerds! Our time has come. I have three words for you: West African Fantasy.

March 6 saw the release of my new favorite book, “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi. The setting is a mythical land characterized after West Africa, and the main character is the very definition of black girl magic. The story follows Zélie, a teenager who watched her mother and her people slaughtered for the magic running through their veins. Now, she’s got one shot of bringing back magic and ending the reign of the king who had her mother killed once and for all.

I know, right?

Personally, I am a lover of fantasy books. And while I have read some that are amazing despite the lack of color, I’ve also read a lot of books full of melanin-deficient people making melanin-deficient mistakes to drive the plot. Books where people who look like me were non-existent, or representative of the entire race or served as a lesson in diversity. They weren’t allowed to just be people. That could be because nobody knows what to do with black people in publishing because there are no black people in publishing.

That’s an exaggeration, but according to a study done in 2015 by Lee & Low Books, only 4 percent of people in the publishing industry overall were black. On the editorial side, basically the people that edit and pitch the book, there’s 2 percent. There’s 3 percent in sales and marketing each, and a whopping 2 percent at the executive level.

Not only is there a lack of POC in the industry, but when it comes to writers and subject matter, the numbers are also pretty low.

According to an ongoing research effort by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, out of the 3,500 children’s books they received from U.S. publishers in 2017, a mere 116 were written by black authors. There were 319 books about black people—a discrepancy that requires a completely different article, but I digress.

So it’s no mystery why books about us are so hard to find, but thankfully, the publishing industry is starting to realize there’s value in stories of, for and by people of color. Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer who graduated from Harvard and studied West African mythology and culture in Brazil. So not only is she a living definition of black excellence, but she writes with a purpose.

In her June 2015 blog post titled “Why I Write: Telling A Story That Matters,” Adeyemi wrote, “So that is why I write… a burning passion to tell a story about someone who is different and to force readers to fall in love with what is different from them.”

This book has more than gods, magic and horse-sized felines. It tackles issues of colorism, sexism, classism and authority, with a dictator-like regime that smacks of racism, even though all of the characters are Orishan (West African). Those like the main character Zélie are born different, with dark skin, white hair and the potential for magic, and are persecuted for it, were massacred for it.

In the author’s note, Adeyemi writes, “If your heart broke for Zélie’s grief over the death of her mother, then let it break for all the survivors of police brutality who’ve had to witness their loved ones taken firsthand.” Adeyemi weaves the echoes of Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland and countless others into her tale, and at times, it’s hard. But it is so unbelievably worth it.

This is not a book about race. It’s not about black people “being black,” like so many YA books featuring teens of color. It’s about reclaiming your legacy, the fight for what’s right and self doubt. It’s about family and what that really means. It’s about fear, grief and purpose.

Even now, at 22, when I feel like I am firmly rooted in who I am, I found a piece of myself in this book that I didn’t know I was missing. I found a world I want to be part of more than Hogwarts. Forget a sorting hat, I want to be claimed by a god.

Zélie’s story doesn’t end with this book. “Children of Blood and Bone” is the first in a trilogy that will be released over the next two years and has been optioned for a movie in the not-too-distant future. Read it now, so you can say you loved it before the movie got popular.

If you love fantasy, this book is for you. If you loved Black Panther and are searching for your next Mother Africa Fix, this book is for you. If you have ever uttered the phrase “black girl magic,” it’s for you. If you are black, or if you can read or if you can’t read but are willing to learn, this book is for you. If you somehow don’t fall into any of the above categories, it is still for you.

For more information about the book and the author, you can visit I encourage you to take a look and learn how we can produce more books for, about and by our people.

The revolution will not be televised. But it just might be written, and “Children of Blood and Bone” might be the start. #NowWeRise