If you weren’t one of the millions resigned to spend New Year’s Eve alone this year (thanks again, COVID), you may have placed special significance on who joined you to welcome in 2021, a year we hope will guide us out of the darkness, despair and disillusionment of that year (come through, Age of Aquarius!). For us here at The Root, it was all about family—immediate, virtual, and chosen—which is why Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton and I were thrilled to welcome two members of our extended family, Maika and Maritza Moulite, to our newish literary podcast, The Root Presents: It’s Lit!, as the first episode of the new year.
Not only are Maika and Maritza the elder sisters of The Root’s Video Producer Jessica Moulite (followed by the baby of the family, Lydi’Ann), but the Haitian American writing duo has also authored two young adult novels together, 2019's incredibly well-received Dear Haiti, Love Alaine (winner of a Parents’ Choice Award) and the upcoming One of the Good Ones, a twisty-turny thriller. Due out January 5, their second novel eerily captures the angst of last year’s uprisings through three sisters reckoning with loss, trauma, history, race and class prejudice, and police brutality in the midst of coming of age.
“We knew that we wanted to tackle racial injustice in America. There’s no way for you to have that conversation, even if you’re writing a contemporary novel without looking at the past because it informs so much of what we’re going through today,” Maritza explained.
In fact, the novel was in part inspired by the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, who hailed from a community close to the Moulites’ own childhood home in Florida.
“His Miami was our Miami,” explained Maika of how Martin’s tragic death dovetailed with both their own lives and more recent national events. “The fact that this just continues to happen is not surprising because of the nature of this country and our history here. But also it’s gut-wrenching,” she continued. “When we were going through this process for One of the Good Ones, we had to consider how so many more people were being brutalized and victimized...whether it’s the police or someone being a vigilante and taking things into their own hands.”
“We were [recently] saying how when we sold the book, Breonna Taylor was alive,” Maritza later added. “We did not know her name. She was just out there, you know, like just...”
“Living her life,” said Maika, completing the sentence.
Over nearly 400 pages that read as easily as a novel half that length, One of the Good Ones explores not only the trauma too often visited upon Black bodies and lives, but which of those lives are deemed “worthy” of memorializing, and what that mourning looks like for those left behind. Spanning decades and generations as the fictional Smith sisters trace the famed Route 66 (closely following The Negro Motorist Green Book), their intersecting narratives force them to reconcile their differences as they realize the whole has only ever been as strong as its individual parts—an ethos the enviably close Moulites already live by.
“We just basically share one brain,” second-eldest Maritza jokes of the quartet of sisters, who have spent much of the last year quarantining together. Despite their obvious camaraderie, the dynamic of their sisterhood no doubt also informed the occasionally contentious relationships and loaded family history of the Smith sisters.
“We are each other’s biggest fans,” Maika laughed. “And nemeses,” Maritza winkingly added.
Join our family affair and hear more about One of the Good Ones on Episode 15 of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!: Two Is Better Than One With Maika and Maritza Moulite, now available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, NPR One, TuneIn, and Radio Public. Also available is a transcript of this week’s episode.