Echo Brown, who wrote two critically acclaimed novels for young adults based on her youth and education, has died at 39, the New York Times reports. Brown had been battling lupus and kidney failure.

Brown gained the attention of the theater world in 2015 with her one-woman show, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters, inspired by her own experience as a Black woman dating a White man.

She made her literary debut in 2020 with Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard. A critic for Kirkus praised the magical realist young adult novel as “a much-needed story. Just brilliant.” She followed that book up two years later with The Chosen One: A First-Generation Ivy League Odyssey, which followed the protagonist, also named Echo Brown, as she studies at Dartmouth University.

In an interview with Kirkus about Black Girl Unlimited, Brown talked about using magical realism in the novel.

“I felt like there were experiences, and there [was] just this kind of undercurrent of things that happened that couldn’t be touched just by reality, that there had to be this level of magic to really explain…what it was like to grow up in those kinds of circumstances,” she said.

Jessica Anderson, the editor who first suggested that Brown write novels, told Publishers Weekly, “Losing a bright light so young is devastating. But I am comforted by the fact that Echo believed in miracles. She manifested them herself. She believed in ancestral keepers, and wizards, and chosen ones. She was spiritual and knew better than anyone that souls do not disappear. Light does not disappear.”

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.