Natasha Bowen Author Post
I first read “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen when I was six. I fell in love with the world under the sea and its magic. As I grew older, I still loved mermaids but began to wonder: Where were the mermaids who looked like me?
I read a lot. Growing up, I didn’t experience many stories where I saw myself. One piece of advice I’ve heard for writers over the years is to write the book you want to read. Skin of the Sea is that story for me. I wanted to read about Black mermaids and legendary creatures. I wanted to read about the excellence of the West African kingdoms. I wanted a tale that explored the magic, myths, and spiritual beliefs that have spread across the diaspora.
I was first motivated to write this book after coming across Yemoja, a Yoruba deity of the Ifá spiritual belief system. She was said to have left her home in the rivers and streams to follow the first Africans who were stolen. There are stories of her comforting enslaved people, while others tell of her wrecking the slave ships. Some say that Yemoja blessed the souls of those who died in the sea and returned them back home. This was the belief that inspired me. What if she created seven Mami Wata (mermaids) in her image to help her do this? And what if one of them saved a boy instead? The seeds for Skin of the Sea were sown and the tale grew from there.
My father is Yoruba, and being able to delve into that part of my heritage has made writing this story even more important to me. Skin of the Sea is a tale of magic and courage, but it also highlights a rich culture and a spirituality often overlooked. This story speaks of ingenuity and fellowship. It is a celebration of the ancestors and their strength.
It is incredible to be reading more stories that open up our worlds to other people’s experiences, cultures, and beliefs. I’m proud of Skin of the Sea and how it explores Black mermaids with African origins. Some readers will see themselves in this story in a way they haven’t before, while other readers will be able to expand their experience of magical beings, fantastical creatures, and history. I hope that all readers will be enthralled by Simidele’s world and will get lost in the glories of fifteenth-century West Africa.
All my best,