Publishers' Preview: Diverse Books: Five Questions for Emily Bowen Cohen

This interview originally appeared in the May/June 2023 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Diverse Books, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Mia’s Two Tribes are Judaism and the Muscogee Nation, each one courtesy of one of her (long divorced) parents. How can they — tribes and parents — come to happy coexistence?

1. What’s the most surprising commonality between your own “two tribes”?

Our creation stories share elemental themes. In the Jewish tradition, the world starts as an unformed void with no light. In my Muscogee tradition, the world begins in darkness as well — light is obscured by a thick fog. The more deeply I study my two cultures, the more similarities I find. These connections affirm my dual identity.

2. How is Mia most like you?

Despite my own fears, I was compelled to reunite with my Oklahoma family after twenty years. My dad passed away when I was nine, so I can’t know his thoughts about many things. But I know he would have wanted me to visit my family. Like me, Mia has an inner drive to learn about both sides of her roots.

3. Your husband is a filmmaker. Compare/contrast creating movies and comics.

The narrative structure of a graphic novel and a film can be quite similar. I love that Mia’s middle-school thoughts have as many ups and downs as any movie character’s. But I’m grateful I don’t have to consider budgets in comics! My characters can go to the moon or we can zoom into their minds, no special-effects budget to consider.

4. What would you like people to know first about the Muscogee Nation?

We are thriving — I’m excited about the popular media on bookshelves and TV from my fellow tribal members. For too long, we’ve been represented by others as a defeated nation. We are out in the world succeeding and being recognized.

5. What’s on the menu for a Muscogee-Jewish candlelight dinner?

I celebrate traditional Friday night Shabbat dinners with my family. We have a Muscogee-Jewish candlelight dinner every week! We start with challah, of course. Then an entrée of Oklahoma-style chili made with ground beef and served with Fritos. If I’m feeling ambitious, I bake a sweet potato pie. I remember picking pecans with my dad, so I’d have pecan pie for dessert. It’s not just for Thanksgiving!

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Photo: Logan Alexander.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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