Books

This One Sky Day: UEA Live with Leone Ross

At the beginning of November, I had the pleasure of seeing Leone Ross discuss her latest novel at UEA Live. This One Sky Day was fifteen years in the making, and listening to Ross speak, you can see why. The book is set in the fictional archipelago Popisho, a magical place inspired by the Caribbean. Popisho wasn’t met with the same type of colonialism as the Caribbean was, but Ross emphasises a different type of colonialism – the people are still taught sexism and homophobia, but it is a whole new world. It is a love story, a tale of magical realism, and a book about sex and food. 

With her vivid imagery, and stunning emphasis on sharing and cooking food, and a wedding feast, this book is a treat. “In many ways, writing this book was me finding the beauty of food,” Leone confided in us, expressing her relationship with it, and this is her way of facing her eating disorder head on. Her discussion of this wasn’t sad or mournful, but full of life and bravery. It was deeply moving. She didn’t do mass research into addiction or any of the other topics she touched upon – apart from research and conversations with chefs – but rather she trusted her instincts, and paid attention to things around her, writing what she knew, alongside just “making shit up”.

This One Sky Day emphasises that everyone is special, each character has their own ability whether that’s healing hands or exquisite taste. Everyone has a little bit of magic in this book, which stands out to readers, but Ross admits she didn’t realise she was being revolutionary. To her, this is real because “every child has this massive potential” and every person is special in their own way. Leone discusses her mother’s reaction to reading this book, and comes to the realisation that This One Sky Day was written with the ideals her mother had instilled in her whilst growing up. Her belief that everyone is special came from her mother, and I think that is such a beautiful way to grow up. 

After writing two realist novels, Ross admitted she had lost some of the joy in writing. She was struggling to find happiness in writing about the gritty truth. After 15 years, This One Sky Day is finally here. She took the pressure of herself, and this magical book came to be. It was important for Ross to reclaim magical realism, because it “feels like magical realism is the work of indigenous people, the work of people of colour, of working class people.” It has always been a profoundly political genre, and Ross found her way back to her politics through this. She makes sure that magical realism encounters both realism and magic, as that is exactly what it is. Her book focuses on very human issues like homophobia, addiction, grief, and sex, but also the distinct fantastical magic. 

I, for one, cannot wait to enter the world of Popisho.


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07/12/2021

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Louise Collins



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