The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is simultaneously gorgeous to read (for the prose) and very much the horrorshow that slavery describes.
Coates' extensive research into the Civil War era leads wonderfully into this novel about the realities of living in the Big House. The original Big House. The plantation. I really loved the commentary, among so much else, that highlighted just how much of all the craftsmanship, the artistic flair, the industry was thanks, directly, to the labor, and not the owners.
Some of these passages are gripping and convincing and pretty glorious. When we get to the Underground, I'm drowned in the tale.
The other big aspect of this novel is the fantasy element. It's really more Magical Realism than a real plot driver, but obviously a lot of the characters we run into WANT it to be THEIR plot driver. The novel's reality takes a different turn, as will any character with their own ambitions and drives. The magical element is cool for modern readers, but it isn't necessarily the most important.
This is all about freedom, of course, but it's more, and rather delightfully, about MEMORY.
If you haven't read Roots or Color Purple or Uncle Tom's Cabin, you wouldn't go far amiss in picking this up if it is your first classic introduction to the topic. In fact, thanks to the quality of the prose and the extremely solid punches to our gut and head, this one underscores our need to remember our past.
Please don't whitewash. It's best to keep our eyes open and our memories active. Let's not repeat history because we've forgotten it.
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