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Episode 67 - Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

This episode is sponsored by Butters & Bars, a Black woman owned and operated skin care company.

So what can I say about Ayanna Lloyd Banwo? When I hopped on a Zoom with her, it felt like I had known her all my life. It didn't take long for us to start vibing about her debut novel and what she likes to read. Plus, she had a lot of praise for ReadMore, which was incredibly nice.

I caught up with Ayanna in the weeks leading up to the Miami Book Fair where she sat on a panel about Caribbean myths and realities.

When We Were Birds is a wonderful book that lives on the line between myth and reality. It allowed me to completely slip into a new world where supernatural things are the norm, and everything rang so true.

The novel is set in Trinidad and centers around two characters who are classic outsiders. Yejide (YAY-gee-day) comes from a family whose maternal line is responsible for ushering the dead into the afterlife. Within each generation, one woman carries this responsibility, and the novel opens as she's about to take her turn. Darwin is a man who reluctantly finds himself working as a gravedigger. This type of work goes against his beliefs as a Rastafarian who isn't supposed to have anything to do with the dead. Somehow, they find each other and experience an immediate connection.

Their story is connected to a story Yejide's grandmother tells her about a breed of bird called a corebeau (co-bow) that lived in ancient times. This bird ate the dead, both animal and human, and then the souls transformed in the birds' bodies and were later released. As a child, Yejide didn't really understand this story, but as a grown woman, she sees the tie to her family's destiny.

During our interview, Ayanna reveals...

- The painful period in her life this novel sprang from,

- Why she wouldn't characterize her novel as magical realism, but understands why others might,

- What goes into writing a good villain, and why it's a little complicated

You can listen to the episode here and help Ayanna and the show by purchasing When We Were Birds on our site.

The first listener to reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter to tell us the name of one of the authors she called a touchstone for her will win a free copy of When We Were Birds.

ReadMore listeners can also take advantage of a special Butters & Bars promotion. Go to, pick up a jar of their whipped cocoa butter, which I love and use on my kids' delicate skin, and then enter ReadMore at checkout to save more than 40 percent. This promotion runs from December 9-22.

EDITED TO ADD: On 12/10, a lucky listener reached out to us on Facebook to claim the When We Were Birds giveaway, and she's a former ReadMore guest. Tamika Gibson, we hope you love this incredible book!


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