The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehesi Coates

I didn’t want The Water Dancer to end! Oh my goodness! This book is the literary equivalent of Big Dick Energy, you can’t tell me nothing!

You can tell by the number of exclamation points I’ve used that I really enjoyed reading this book. Thank you so much, One World for sending this to me.

Category: Historical Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: One World
Published: Sep 24, 2019
Pages: 416, Hardback

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehesi Coates
I just love this cover!

Should You Bother Reading “The Water Dancer”

I’m not going to regurgitate what everyone has been saying about this book. All I’m going to share is why I think it’s important to read this book. In the past, Oprah Bookclub selections have always left me feeling some type of way. Unnecessarily heavy or high on slavery-struggle porn. Though I was excited to read this book, I had my reservations.

The Water Dancer at its core is a love story. And who doesn’t love a love story? But that’s not why I want you to pick this book up. Coates’s writing is why you need to pick this up. If you have read a lot of slavery themed books in the past, you know how easy it is to switch off.

What Ta-Nehisi Coates created here is a work of art. He told a familiar story in the most poetic way that you can’t help but be moved by the characters, their struggles, their triumphs and their hopes. If you want to have a truly immersive reading experience, you NEED to read this book. Feel free to wait until the hype dies off so you can read without bias or distractions.

P.S I was going to read Beloved by Toni Morrison before The Water Dancer but I’m going to take a break from American slavery stories for a bit. If you need a related recommendation, you should definitely pick that one up!

One of my favourite Bookstagrammers, @read_by_rodkelly shared a beautiful review that you should check out.

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🌊THE WATER DANCER | REVIEW🌊 . Ta-Nehishi Coates has written a perfect novel. Supremely iconoclastic & imbued with the vibrance & heroism of a comic book, while also in conversation with the literary work of several authors: Toni Morrison & Octavia Butler, but, more directly, with contemporary authors such as Colson Whitehead, Victor LaValle, Edward P. Jones, & Marlon James. Rending the fabric of history, Coates occludes the accepted trajectory of slave literature through the re-naming, & therefore re-framing, of the entire sordid & despicable enterprise: slaves have become the "Tasked" & whites become the "Quality." Naming has always been an inexplicable part of black life & the black literary tradition, & becomes, in The Water Dancer, a way of opening a pathway, a way of seeing and actualizing, of dignifying what, in most narratives in this tradition, is seen through the lens of high tragedy. . The entire novel is an amulet, a symbol of the catharsis of memory, allowing our deepest pain to surface & heal in order to be freed from the bondage of our collective trauma, creating an archival history of redemption via remembrance. A history that clears a space for joy, for love, for true freedom, true corporeal & mental autonomy. . There is plenty room here for the abject, for the tearful ruminations on the injustices & the erasure of such, but Coates paints with a bigger brush, from a palette of colors that places imagination & magic beside history, remembrance as a super-power & black love beside subjugation and agony. There is no dithering, none of the hesitation that can sometimes plague a debut novel. The vast history of slavery communes with contemporary notions of black personhood, & the words of this gorgeous novel undulate as a wave asking the reader to simply remember. . #oprahsbookclub #thewaterdancer #tanehisicoates #readwithus #review

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About The Author


Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years In Power and Between The World And Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015.

He is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

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