Writer J.Elle grew up in Houston's Third Ward. She left to attend college – the first in her family to do so. Then, her husband's military career took her all over the country. And she missed home.
That homesickness inspired her debut young adult fantasy novel, Wings of Ebony. It features a young heroine named Rue, who's torn from her home in a neighborhood called East Row, which is – based on the Third Ward.
When her mother is murdered, Rue is whisked away by her estranged father to an island of magic wielders. And she discovers she has powers herself.
J.Elle says she decided to write a fantasy story because it would allow marginalized readers – especially African Americans – to feel empowered. And the 2018 movie Black Panther inspired her to create a heroic African American character, like she wishes she'd seen while growing up here.
J.Elle is back living in Houston now and, in the audio above, she tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about the story, the symbolism of Rue’s powers, and what she hopes young readers take away from the book.
A sequel to Wings of Ebony is scheduled to be released early next year.