In “Time Conjurer”, I use the term “flying” to denote time travel my characters do by moving through the surfaces of photographs. This flight is meant to allow them access to people and places they cherish. These flights start as cathartic “vacations”, but become necessary excursions into the past to solve the mystery of a long lost aunt (Delilah Ashford) who was presumed dead, but had been reaching out to the main character (Kenny) through dreams.
The origin of the term “flying” in African American history is much more sober and spiritual, however. The story begins on Igbo Landing on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia. A group of enslaved Nigerians walked into the Atlantic to escape bondage. Their deaths were seen as an act of resistance that allowed their souls to return to their homeland. The story of this act spread among the enslaved Africans and inspired the use of “flying” or “flying away” as code for escape from plantations. The pervasive belief in the concept was documented as oral history via slave narratives. It was used in Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and Virginia Hamilton’s children’s book, “The People Could Fly.”
In no way do I mean to trivialize the spiritual significance of “Flying”. In my own way, I am using it as a way to heal by undoing past injustice. Instead of simply escaping, “Flying” becomes proactive resistance where my characters can travel from 2019 to 1955 to help others heal from the traumas of the Jim Crow South. I hope my story is seen as the historical fiction/fantasy that it is.
I didn’t grow up seeing historical fiction/fantasy (print or visual) with African American protagonists. Although now such books exist, I hope my contribution is a useful addition.