Deborah Johnson was born in Missouri and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. After college, she moved to San Francisco and then lived in Rome, Italy for eighteen years where she worked as a translator and at Vatican Radio in its English/ Africa broadcast services and also edited doctoral theses. She returned to the United States in 2002. Her novel, The Air Between Us, was published by HarperCollins in 2008 and won the prestigious Mississippi Library Association Award for Fiction in 2010.
Her second novel, The Secret of Magic, came out from Amy Einhorn Books/ G.P. Putnam’s Sons in January 2014 and was chosen by the Mississippi University for Women as its Reading Initiative selection for the 2014-2015 academic year. Ms. Johnson currently teaches for Stanford University in its online writing program. She lives in Columbus, Mississippi and it working on a new novel. Visit her here: http://www.DeborahJohnsonBooks.com
The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
This book was inspired by my grandfather and his service to his country during World War II in the segregated army that he joined shortly after Pearl Harbor. He went off from the US to fight for the liberation of Europe from the Nazis and the Fascists when, effectively, he did not have the right to vote in his home state. My grandfather always greatly admired Thurgood Marshall and the work he and other lawyers were doing at the NAACP Legal Defense and education Fund in New York. He thought this work would change all of our lives for the better and it has.
I loved my grandfather. What he admired, I admired and so I always knew I wanted to write something about what was being done at the Fund in the 1940s. When I was doing preliminary research for The Secret of Magic, I came upon the largely forgotten case of Isaac Woodard. My reaction to what I read about Mr. Woodard and what had happened to him was both visceral and painful. It still is. But this reaction let me know that I I had found the real life foundation upon which I wanted to build my fictional novel. It was important for me to bring his story from the shadows of history into the light.
Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country.
As a child, Regina was captivated by Calhoun’s The Secret of Magic, a novel in which white and black children played together in a magical forest.
Once down in Mississippi, Regina finds that nothing in the South is as it seems. She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them.
Reviews for The Secret of Magic
“A riveting novel.” —O, The Oprah magazine
“There are a million metaphors I could use to describe Deborah Johnson’s writing in The Secret of Magic—but all of them are inadequate in conveying the ebb and flow of her phrasing or the care in crafting her characters…. If you liked The Help, you’ll love this one! … [T]he cadence of Johnson’s writing is an absolute joy…. I can’t think of any other recent book in which I have so enjoyed an author’s actual stringing-together-of-words.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Johnson offers a completely engaging southern gothic with unforgettable characters…” —Booklist
“A work of masterful storytelling, telling truth with fiction in a novel that comes alive with every word on the page. With as many curves as there are branches on magnolia trees, this novel will take you into the forest and leave a mark on you.”—The Herald-Sun
“A spellbinding novel of a young, female, black attorney trying to earn justice for a murdered World War II hero.”—San Antonio Express-News
“A passionate, nuanced drama about Southern race relations…provocative.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“I found this story about race, The South, our country, part history, part mystery—never disappointing. Like The South she tragically portrays, The Secret of Magic is a layered tale of the best and worst of our history, beautifully wrought by a master storyteller.” —Robert Hicks, New York Times bestselling author of Widow of the South and A Separate Country
Purchase The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson