Amber McBride is the author of Me (Moth), a Summer/Fall 2021 Indies Introduce young adult selection and a July/August 2021 Kids’ Next List pick. McBride earned her BA in English from James Madison University, and her MFA in poetry from Emerson College. She is currently a professor of English at the University of Virginia.
Kelsy April of Bank Square Books and Title IX Books in Mystic, Connecticut, and Savoy Bookshop in Westerly, Rhode Island, served on the panel that selected McBride’s book for Indies Introduce. April called the book “incredible. Poetic. Jaw dropping,” and said, “It's hard to find the words to describe how amazing this book is. Two lost souls finding each other and themselves, paired with a heart-stopping ending you will never see coming. Just read this book.”
Here, April and McBride discuss the author and poet’s novel in verse, and the inspiration behind it.
Kelsy April: Ancestry, history, and tradition are prevalent themes throughout the book, with the practice of Hoodoo being one of them. Can you tell us about why you chose to write about root magic?
Amber McBride: African and Black history are largely skipped over in the public school system. I think everyone has heard the phrase "knowledge is power," and this idea extends to ancestry, history, and traditions. African and Black history are vast, brilliant, and complex and I wanted to write a narrative that highlighted those rich traditions. Hoodoo is medicine, magic, balance, and a reminder that you are never alone. I wanted to write about Hoodoo so Black kids could see the vastness and magic that their ancestors left behind for them.
KA: Tell us about Sani’s spirituality — he is Navajo and throughout the book he speaks to Moth about his beliefs. Where did the inspiration to write Sani’s experience come from?
AM: I knew from the start that I wanted to talk about Hoodoo in this narrative, but I also wanted to incorporate the stories and traditions of other marginalized groups in America who feel just as invisible as Moth feels. My aunt is Navajo and awhile back, my family road tripped to New Mexico to see my dad’s brother and my cousins. While on the reservation, I was introduced to so many stunning traditions that were never taught in school. It was a pivotal experience for me. My aunt helped me to develop Sani’s character as a traditional modern Navajo boy. Moth and Sani exchange stories, parts of their souls, and heal from acknowledging their similarities and differences. The primary idea being rejecting fitting in and building a world crafted from shared experiences, both figuratively and spiritually, as marginalized people living in America.
KA: How did you decide the book should be told in verse?
AM: I am a poet. I have my MFA in poetry, but I never thought to write in verse for young adults until I read novels in verse like Brown Girl Dreaming, The Poet X, and A Long Way Down. The complexity and lyricism of those novels were so impactful and Me (Moth) seemed the perfect story for verse.
KA: I hear you chose an interesting structure for the verse in the book — can you tell us more about that?
AM: The structure of Me (Moth) is very intentional. The story is about a girl named Moth and her emotional and physical journey across the United States to the Navajo Nation. The book is set up in four sections that mirror the stages of an actual moth’s life cycle; egg, caterpillar, cocoon, and moth. The idea that each stage of a journey requires bravery and change. Moth feels locked in an egg when she is in the suburbs, she grows, like a caterpillar, on the long, windy roads during their road trip to the Navajo Nation. She cocoons in the Navajo Nation and finally blooms into a moth. Also, moths are so forgotten compared to butterflies, but are so extraordinary.
KA: The story is so heartfelt and yet devastating — like holding a beating heart in your hands. For how long did this story about two star-crossed lovers sit with you before you told it? Where did the idea come from?
AM: The initial idea of writing a book that incorporated Hoodoo came to me soon after my grandfather passed away in February of 2019 and someone left coins at his grave. I quickly decided that the love interest would be Navajo and I had a three-hour conversation with my aunt about how to respectfully write the character of Sani. After that, I simmered on the idea for about a week and then drafted an outline. Sani’s character really helped me see the story more fully and inspect how marginalized teens in America universally feel unseen. Moth and Sani craft a world together filled with stories and love — they see each other.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride (Feiwel & Friends, 9781250780362, Hardcover Young Adult, $18.99) On Sale: 8/17/2021
Find out more about the author at amber-mcbride.com.
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