This blog post was written by mentee Nneka Ulu on our March magical realism workshop with novelist and former mentor, Brooke Obie.
To be frank, I have never given the genre of magical realism a second glance before. I scoffed, politely of course, at the idea of attending a three hour workshop on a genre I had no care for. I was a headstrong memoir girl, after all. I’d rather write a dramatic portrayal of an inner city teen, who shamelessly resembles yours truly, than to write about fairies and wizards hiding in mundane scenarios.
The workshop started with a mini guessing game that emphasized the distinctions between magical realism, fantasy, and science fiction. Because I had little experience with these genres, I felt quite intimidated at first. After a couple rounds, I realized that many of my favorite reads fall under one of these categories, or even a mixture of all three. It turns out that one of my favorite childhood series by Mary Pope Osborne was full on magic realism! Well played Girls Write Now, I thought. You’ve got my attention.
The first thing I noticed about Brooke C. Obie was the confidence and radiant energy that seemed to just emanate off of her as she sat in the front of the room facing all of us. I was left in awe while hearing about her endless accomplishments that she humbly shrugged off. She graduated from law school, already had ideas for her second and third book, and even shook hands with Michelle Obama. How lucky! I gasped when I heard that she was a former mentor at Girls Write Now. It made me feel incredibly connected to her experience.
During the Craft Talk, Brooke read from her beautifully crafted novel, Cradled Embers. What struck me most from the reading was not only the artistically written pages, but the profundity of her reading voice. She spoke with such grace, charm, and confidence. You could tell that she meant every word that she wrote. The genuineness of the passion in her voice enthralled me. I didn’t want it to end. I also took note of the magical elements that subtly crept out from the pages that she read. I was unaware of how whimsical and sophisticated magical realism could be before Brooke.
After the reading she answered all of our questions. Somebody asked her the question: What does black liberation look like to you? She answered: There is no true liberation until the black transgender woman has access to the same privileges and opportunities as a cisgender white male. Preach, Brooke! I rarely hear the importance of intersectional feminism corroborated by others, so I was pleasantly surprised, some might say ‘shook’, by her answer. Brooke is a delightfully enlightening role model that every girl needs. I’m so glad I got to meet her!