I believe the answer to that last question is, “yes, it does.” To all the others and for the time it takes to devour her book, award winning author Zetta Elliot, PhD, makes being a participant of history possible. Allow me to develop: it’s one thing to read a historical (non-fiction)book or historical fiction, but in the back of our mind we might always keep some distance because, well, it happened ‘a long time ago’. Scrap that feeling and imagine you, living in Brooklyn in the 21st century, catapulted in 1863. With all your feelings and memories intact. Imagine the culture, emotional and physical shock.
That is speculative fiction, and that is what Zetta Elliott does to the reader of A WISH AFTER MIDNIGHT. As you read about Genna’s experiences, our bicultural teenage main character, you share her pain and her tears. Nannie, a person you barely know, holds you and rock you to sleep like a baby. You have scars on your body that reminds you what it’s like to be or to have been a slave.
I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition between the 1800s and the present era. Genna is there, yet she is also worried about her mother, her brothers and her family in Panama. Genna lives in a rough neighborhood, but she’s a tough, grounded girl who knows what she wants in life, and that is to become a doctor. One of the scenes of the book is so greatly written that the tension gets to you when you read about her confrontation with another young man, as she is trying to walk her way out of a building. You fear the worst. I did. And the ending of the book had me gasp. I won’t spoil it, can’t say more, but the date is crucial, and the study guide gives you much food for thought.
AWAM explores not only themes related to slavery and freedom, but also offers a window into the blessings and challenges of a first love, and of inter-racial friendships.
AWAM is not forgetting about the present while reading about past events. It’s doing more than remembering yesterday’s life conditions; it’s putting yourselves Genna, or Nannies’ shoes… NOW, then wondering: How is our history different from what is happening to today’s generation of Brown children? I think that AWAM dares the reader to take action after turning the last page, challenges him/her to be the change he/she wants to see.
In that vein and in my humble opinion, one of the many positive effects of A WISH AFTER MIDNIGHT on the young reader is to also get him/her aware of the fight against illiteracy, and to show him/her how simple it is to get involved. AWAM makes the reader appreciative of how far we’ve come, but also helps grasp the amplitude of what is left to be done. It makes me happy that AWAM is already on several school reading lists.
If I were to walk by a fountain after midnight and to throw a penny in it, here’s the wish I’d make: For A WISH AFTER MIDNIGHT to be adapted on the big screen. I can’t wait for it!
About Zetta Elliott–Excerpt from her website
I earned my PhD in American Studies from NYU in 2003; I have taught black feminist cultural criticism at Ohio University, Louisiana State University, and Mount Holyoke College. My poetry has been published in the Cave Canem anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: an Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book: an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. My novella, Plastique, was excerpted in T Dot Griots: an Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers, and my essays have appeared in School Library Journal, Horn Book Magazine, The Black Arts Quarterly, thirdspace, WarpLand, and Rain and Thunder. I won the Honor Award in Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Contest, and my picture book, Bird, was published in October 2008. My first play, Nothing but a Woman, was a finalist in the Chicago Dramatists’ Many Voices Project (2006). My fourth full-length play, Connor’s Boy, was staged in January 2008 as part of two new play festivals: in Cleveland, OH as part of Karamu House’s R. Joyce Whitley Festival of New Plays ARENAFEST, and in New York City as part of Maieutic Theatre Works’ Newborn Festival. My one-act play, girl/power, was staged as part of New Perspectives Theater’s NYC festival of women’s work, GIRLPOWER, in August 2008. My young adult novel, A Wish After Midnight, was published by AmazonEncore in February 2010. I currently live in Brooklyn…
An awesome fact about AWAM
AWAM was initially self-published, before being picked up by Amazon as one of the first books the company endorsed when it became a traditional publisher. As such, AWAM was published in February 2010 by AmazonEncore. Click her for an interview of Zetta Elliott with USA TODAY, where she tells more about that journey; And here are Zetta’s 7 Tips for Self-Published Authors, a Huffington’s Post article.
Edited on 02.24.2011: wrote “bicultural” as opposed to the initial “biracial”.