Blood in the Water: Jewell Parker Rhodes’s <em>Bayou Magic</em> as Children’s Petrofiction

  • Lara Saguisag City University of New York-College of Staten Island
Keywords: petrofiction, Bayou Magic, energy humanities, environment, Jewell Parker Rhodes


Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Bayou Magic (2015), written in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill, deliberates the special problem of talking to children about oil. How does one tackle the subject of oil when addressing young people? How are children enabled to participate in discourses on petroleum? The novel also reveals a dilemma: the resource that we associate with comfort and progress actually contaminates, wounds, and lays waste to natural and human ecosystems. Caught in the mucky conundrum of oil, Bayou Magic reveals the challenges of talking to children about oil and oil catastrophes. In striving to meet the expectation that children’s fiction should offer a hopeful, if not happy, ending, Bayou Magic resorts to a resolution that “contains” the oil spill but sidesteps the problem of our persisting dependence on oil. But the novel’s allusion to the African deity Mami Wata is significant, as the figure connects the oppression of Black peoples to the exploitation of natural resources. As such, the novel uses fantastical elements not to imply that only something magical or divine can save us from disaster; rather, it signals that projects of environmental justice require openness to and embrace of radically imaginative solutions.


DOI: 10.1353/jeu.0.0015

Author Biography

Lara Saguisag, City University of New York-College of Staten Island

Lara Saguisag teaches at the College of Staten Island–City University of New York. Her book Incorrigibles and Innocents: Constructing Childhood and Citizenship in Progressive Era Comics (Rutgers 2018) received several awards, including the Charles Hatfield Book Prize from the Comics Study Society and an Eisner nomination for Best Academic/Scholarly Work. She is currently working on a project that examines the relationship between young people’s literature and fossil fuels.

How to Cite
Saguisag, L. (2021). Blood in the Water: Jewell Parker Rhodes’s <em>Bayou Magic</em&gt; as Children’s Petrofiction. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 1-23. Retrieved from