As is often true of “overnight successes,” Morowa Yejidé’s (pronounced: Moe-roe-wah Yay-gee-day) debut novel quickly gained critical and popular acclaim but took about ten years to achieve that success. Time of the Locust (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, 2014) is a finalist for the national PEN/Bellwether Prize , received First Honorable Mention in the national 2011 Dana Awards, and is a 2015 NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Literary Work.
Yejidé, who is married with three sons, wrote the book in the spare time she didn’t have, taking advantage of occasional bouts of insomnia, hours between work in academia, and even time in the bathtub when the door was locked to all distraction for three-hour baths. Submitting the manuscript to publishers more than 100 times, she filed away the rejections and kept sending it off, undaunted.
“Time of the Locust is a magical realism, literary fiction type of novel,” Yejidé says. “It tells the story of a seven-year-old autistic boy named Sephiri and a supernatural relationship he has with his incarcerated father.”
Autism and incarceration are just two of the heavy topics Yejidé takes on in the novel. The boy's mother Brenda copes with single parenthood while her son’s father Horus serves time for killing a racist police officer who shot his father but went unpunished. Horus is in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison, increasingly escaping his isolation and despair by escaping in his mind. Brenda buries her stress in food, leading to obesity and diabetes. Yejidé manages to juggle all of these issues, dropping nothing, each character and issue fully developed.
“Writing for me is a real odyssey,” says Yejidé. “And it’s a real adventure, and I look at it as such. I didn’t start off with the concept of autism directly. I did start off looking at the different ways that people communicate. I believe there’s a certain language of the heart.”
Speaking in that language of the heart, mother connects with son, son connects (or disconnects) with the chaotic world around him, and the father connects to his son.
Morowa Yejidé is a graduate of Kalamazoo College and Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Her short stories have appeared in the Istanbul Review, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, Underground Voices, the Adirondack Review, and others. Her story "Tokyo Chocolate" was nominated in 2009 for the Pushcart Prize, anthologized in the best of the Willesden Herald Stories, and reviewed in Japan Times. She is a research faculty member at Georgia Institute of Technology and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland. Yejidé lives in Washington, D.C.
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