My first two books take place in Greenwich Village, the third is in New Orleans. The characters are different, the time periods change, but there is one constant: My companion in all the books is my real friend, a Priestess of the Yoruba Tradition—YeYe Luisah Teish.
Luisah and I are from different spiritual traditions. It goes without saying that I don’t follow the Abrahamic religions—Teish follows her tradition and teaches me about a spirituality I can embrace. (Yoruba has gods and goddesses each serve people in different areas of life. They must be treated with respect.)
In The Road Not Taken, Yeye isn’t cast as the main character’s spirit guide—but she appears to my main character and tells of the Yoruba activists in Nigeria who risked their lives to save the kidnapped girls of the Chiboc school. It was a powerful tribute to not taking brutality lying down that Deborah, my protagonist, needed to hear to do what she was called to do.
My second book, tentatively titled 44 Horatio Street, is about a house my family lived in and then rented out in Greenwich Village. Among the tenants were Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the Beats including their coordinator, Lucien Carr, who murdered his lover and got off with a “Gay Panic” conviction. Also in the house was William Burroughs, who, too, had murdered and gotten away with it. YeYe, in this book, works to keep the protagonist safe.
And now, I’m embarking on my third novel—The 15 Maries—and writing Yeye again, this time as my Mambo (rabbi, mentor, guide). This book takes place in 1850’s New Orleans, and present-day Los Angeles, and features the Voodoo Queen and abolitionist Marie LaVeaux. Luisah was recently named the new Marie LaVeaux by the City of New Orleans—so I think you see where this is going.
Luisah is a powerful friend and an astounding woman. The truth is, off the page, she is also a guiding companion—someone who offers me new and powerful perspectives as I chart my own course through this life. She shows up in my books because across time and space, I know that what we all need is a companion like that to guide our travels—spiritual, physical, or otherwise.
PS: Tag the first person you’d invite along on an epic adventure in the comments on THIS Instagram post and you BOTH can win a copy of my novel #TheRoadNotTaken—and a much-needed escape from gestures all this. (Make sure you’re following me, too!)