Author Natasha Bowen created the mystical world she wanted to read about. Now she’s expanded that world in a stunning sequel that further amplifies her love and curiosity for Black mermaids and African mythology.
At a young age, Bowen fell in love with books and quickly read on her own despite her dyslexia. By the time she read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, the Nigerian-Welsh writer was intrigued by mermaids and the miraculous world they lived beneath the oceanic depths. However, she yearned to see the representation of herself and other Black characters in the stories she read.
“As I explored different ideas, I decided to write the story I wanted to read. And I wanted to read a story about Black mermaids, magic, and West African history,” Bowen said in an interview with the American Booksellers Association.
“When I came across the beliefs that Yemoja, a deity in the Ifá spiritual belief system, followed the very first enslaved I was hooked,” she continued.
Two books down, Bowen makes people feel seen in her young adult fantasy series, according to Publisher’s Weekly. Her New York Times best-selling debut work, Skin of the Sea, tells the story of main protagonist Simi, who serves as Mami Wata, a mermaid that collects the souls of those who die at sea and blesses their journeys back home.
Featuring legendary creatures, mainly from West and Central Africa, Skin of the Sea is also filled with gods and goddesses presented as mermaids. Bowen intended to stay true to the land and time in which the book is set. Exploring Yoruba culture, for instance, allowed the author to learn more about her own ancestors and present aspects of history that is almost never showcased.
“When you learn or hear about Africa, and I think this is intentional, it’s like its history only starts with slavery,” Bowen said, per the outlet. “There’s never anything about how it was before.”
On Sept. 27, Bowen released Soul of the Deep just ahead of the live-action The Little Mermaid starring songstress Halle Bailey. Serving as book two of Skin of the Sea, the new fantasy chronicles Simi’s sacrifices and choices while she embarks on a journey to finding herself and saving the world from demons.
“I want to say that Africa’s history and brilliance is there, and I want to say that Black people can be magical and fantastical creatures, as well as anything else,” Bowen said, according to Publisher’s Weekly.