The Water Dancer

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Hiram Walker, the black son of a slave owner and a woman enslaved, must navigate the world after losing his white brother, Maynard, in a carriage accident on the Goose River. His ability to survive where Maynard perished is shrouded in a secret he doesn’t understand, a secret that will reveal that he is The Water Dancer.

Part novel of racial politics and part origin story, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first novel is a brilliant and magnificent work of pain, progress, and power. Coates rarely uses the word “slave.” Instead, he refers to those enslaved as “the Tasked.” The choice is one that offers infinite possibilities for interpretation. Who has tasked this group of human beings, and why? With what are they tasked? There is an element of philosophical questioning at the heart of the novel, as well as a supernatural and fantastical imagining of freedom on the terms of the “tasked” as opposed to those of the whites in power.

The epigraph of the novel comes from Frederick Douglass. It reads, “My part has been to tell the story of the slave. The story of the master never wanted for narrators.” Coates has taken the story of slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the horrific oppression of black people at the hands of whites, and turned it into an allegory for what we are capable of when we own our own stories and memories. The power of The Water Dancer lies in that reclamation, and it is a novel we need right now.


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Author Ta-Nehisi Coates
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 432 pages
Publisher Oneworld Publications
Publish Date 24-Sep-2019
ISBN 9780399590597
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue November 2019
Category Popular Fiction
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