Ta-Nehisi Coates' debut novel The Water Dancer was one of the most highly anticipated novels of the year for a good reason. Coates is known for his ability to spread and analyze history seamlessly, and in a way that is relevant and relatable to his readers. Coates has a way of picking ideas and instances in society a part and presenting the most delicate aspects of them to his audience in ways previously unseen. The Water Dancer was no different.
About the Book:
The Water Dancer is a story of a young and enslaved Hiram Walker whose mother was sold by Hiram's father and slave master. Hiram lives his life as a companion to his White half brother barely understanding that he will never be able to have the same Quality of life as his privileged brother, despite his obvious intellect and capability. Even through this, Hiram is typically able to find small pieces of joy in his life on his fathers plantation, until one day his life takes an unforeseen turn. Hiram is called to a Task he would have never expected, granted to him both by his impeccable memory, and his lack of memory of the most important thing connecting him to his misery.
I enjoyed this book in a general sense. I love Coate's way of making his readers view things from different angles. I love his inclusion of magical realism with Hiram and Harriet's conductions. I am a fan of historical fiction, so although this was a slave narrative, it was right up my ally. With that being said, this was no ordinary slave narrative. The book read like a fantasy, which gave it a different twist, although I found the language unnecessarily lofty.
There were a few hiccups for me. I found it hard to follow in some instances. Coates left a lot to the imagination while leaving out details of the places and the conductions. I wish I was given just a little bit more to play with.
Overall, this was a great book just as I had expected. I'd like to read more fiction from Coates in the future.
Important Discussion Points:
Family and love and how the institution slavery impacts the ability to love completely as we now are able to do.
Trauma through the theory of epi-genetics.
The inevitable duality and ideal of abolitionism
The idea that slave masters in some ways can be just as enslaved as the humans they hold captive through their own doing.
Have you read The Water Dancer? What were your thoughts? The people want to know.