Demetrius Johnson and the Weep of the World: A Novel
Demetrius Johnson and the Weep of the World is a middle-grade, dark fantasy novel for readers eight to thirteen years old. The novel uses dark fantasy elements as allegory to render grief’s lived experience. The novel’s protagonist is Demetrius, a ten-year-old who has lost his mother to cancer and is struggling to cope. Demetrius’s grief emerges as the novel’s primary journey, beginning six months after Mama’s death as Demetrius and his father move to rural Virginia to live with family. Upon arrival at his grandmother’s house, Demetrius meets the novel’s antagonist—a promise-peddling inventor named Meraux the Magic Man, who claims that Dee’s mother is not gone but lost and that he has just the gadgets to find her. Using steampunk-horror details, Meraux is grief personified, imagining grief as a force that spontaneously exerts itself upon the bereaved. Demetrius takes Meraux’s bargain and is hurtled into his ashen wasteland, the World In Between, where Dee discovers the lie and magical thinking embedded in Meraux’s promise. Building upon the work of scholar Marta Bladek and writer Joan Didion, I render grief as a fantasy setting on macro and micro levels. First, grief’s spatiality is rendered as the larger invented fantasy world of the novel, the World In Between, a place where bereaved people are stuck in time, space, and grief. Secondly, the novel’s scenes are constructed as individual landscapes representing different emotional affects and atmospheres of grief. In these spaces, Demetrius discovers a multicultural band of trapped bereaved people fighting to survive. The residents of Mourning Star warn Demetrius that Meraux doesn’t just feed off grief, but that Meraux is building the Grief Eater, a machine to weep the waking world, and Demetrius is the perfect fuel. Demetrius must join the bereaved’s ranks to stop Meraux, destroy the machine, and find a way home. Through this journey, the novel develops a kaleidoscope of non-Eurocentric mourning beliefs through the characters of Ellie, Raida, Aharon, and Nii. This exploration develops a theme of grief as a unifying force, wherein the bereaved through shared experience can heal via community.
writing, creative writing, fiction, middle grade, fantasy, children's literature, grief, loss, death, speculative fiction
Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)