Root Magic

by by Eden Royce Year Published: Year Published: 2021

On Wadmalaw, an island 20 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, many in the Gullah Geechee community rely on rootworkers for healing. Others are suspicious, believing rootwork to be witchcraft. When Jezebel and Jay’s grandmother, the island’s best rootworker, passes away, their uncle, Doc, begins to teach the 11-year-old twins rootwork as a form of protection against malevolent spirits and flesh-and-blood threats like racist police officer Deputy Collins. Jez isn’t sure she believes in magic or haints and boo-hags, but she eagerly attends her lessons; making her first root bag, she hopes to use it to attract a friend. At school, Jez faces bullying by Black classmates who believe rootwork is “old-fashioned” and “only for uneducated people,” even as many of their families on rely on Jez’s family’s healing skills. New classmate Susie is different, however, curious about rootwork and defending Jez. As the twins’ lessons progress, spooky things begin to occur: Invisible hands grab Jez in the marsh, and the doll that Gran made for her begins to speak. Not only does Jez discover the magic is real, she learns it runs particularly strong in her and someone—or something—may be trying to steal it. Facing both human and supernatural threats, Jez embraces her heritage and harnesses her power in this unique and affirming coming-of-age story set in 1963.