The Trouble with Magic: Conjuring the Past in New York City Parks

  • Zetta Elliott
Keywords: speculative fiction, urban parks, magic, African American literature


New York City parks serve as magical sites of discovery and recovery in speculative fiction for young readers, which has gone through a process of modernization, shifting from “universal” and “generic” narratives with repetitive features (derived from Western European folklore) to a sort of “specialization” that emphasizes the particular cultural practices and histories of racially diverse urban populations. Ruth Chew uses city spaces like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park to engage young readers in the magical adventures of white, middle-class children. Zetta Elliott’s African American speculative novels A Wish After Midnight and Ship of Souls utilize these sites to reveal the complexity and ethnic diversity of urban youth while conjuring the suppressed history of free and enslaved blacks in New York City.


DOI: 10.1353/jeu.2013.0014

Author Biography

Zetta Elliott

Born in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the United States in 1994 to pursue her Ph.D. in American Studies at New York University. Her writing has been published in several anthologies, and her plays have been staged in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. Her essays have appeared in Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal, and Hunger Mountain. She is the award-winning author of four books for young readers: Bird, A Wish After Midnight, Ship of Souls, and The Deep. Zetta Elliott is Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at Borough of Manhattan Community College and currently lives in Brooklyn.

How to Cite
Elliott, Z. (2013). The Trouble with Magic: Conjuring the Past in New York City Parks. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 5(2). Retrieved from