Cover Image: Wade in the Water

Wade in the Water

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Member Reviews

Having recently finished the debut novel “Wade in the Water” by Nyani Nkrumah, I am happy to have had the chance for the Advanced Reader’s Edition e-copy; thank you NetGalley and Amistad!

Twelve-year-old Ella is a character that will remain with me for some time, and sadly, will come to mind when I enjoy Oreo cookies and milk. Powerfully written with vivid detail, I was there through all the hurt, fear and brutal beatings that Ella endured in her rural Mississippi home. 
The alternating chapters told of Katherine St. James’ background, and was filled with another kind of brutality and revealed the racism that was so prevalent in the world in which she was raised. 
These two tumultuous worlds came together for a brief time in Ricksville, Mississippi beginning with the shared love of words, and a fragile friendship that was formed over a Scrabble board. 
Wade in the Water was a hard, emotional story; and I'm grateful for the wisdom and insights that will stay with me. Especially the quote I've included below.
"I now knew why God had made us in such ordinary colors like black, brown, and white, unlike the greens of the grass, the blues of the oceans and sky, and the rainbow colors of birds and insects. He wanted us to look outside, at his paintings, not at ourselves. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone thought like that? If the only color we saw was the array of colors outside in the world and not on our skins.”
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This one is difficult to rate. The blurb mentions "the unlikely friendship between a precocious black girl and a mysterious white woman in a small Mississippi town in the early 1980s." This isn't what we got at all.

To begin, this didn't feel like 1980. It felt like it was set during the civil rights movement. I know the South is perceived as slow, and supposedly advances ages behind the rest of civilization, but the timing, amongst other things, felt off.

Both Ella and Katherine are extremely unlikeable characters. This is inherently fine. I have read plenty of books where I enjoyed the story, but didn't like anyone. Ella gets a bit of a pass as she is young, unwanted, and abused.

Katherine strolls into town with her white savior bullshit, moves into the Black area of town, and expects all of them to voluntarily tell her about their lives. It's giving trauma porn. If you read Yellowface, she begins to feel a lot like June.

This isn't an easy story. It's very hurtful, impudent, and outright racist at times. I'm aware that's how it was meant to be written. I just want to lay it all out so you're not surprised.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher.
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this book is beautifully written and is such a heart-wrenching story. 
I did not feel like there were any useless words because i felt the author wrote with purpose and precision. 
I will be buying the hard copy
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I initially requested this because the cover is gorgeous and it was being compared to Secret Life of Bees. I actually thought the characters and themes were more captivating in this novel! This was an absolutely amazing debut novel. I cannot wait to see more works from the author. The book evoked so many emotions. You really felt for Ella. I like that the book ended positively, especially since it had so many heavy themes. I feel like this should be required reading. The topics are heavy but are important and need to be discussed. 5 stars!So many things are covered-colorism (Ella is very dark-skinned since she's a product of her mom's relationship with an African man who passed through their town), sexual abuse (Ella's stepfather), racism (Katherine is the daughter of a KKK member), violence, white supremacy, mental health issues, etc. The author handles all of them with sensitivity, which I admired.
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I enjoyed this novel.  The story held a quiet and meandering quality that was very appealing.  My favorite character was Mr. McCabe.  He seemed to be the glue that Ella so desperately needed in her life.  I  liked how the story was told from Ella's and Ms. St. James' points of views.  The way their stories tied together felt new and interesting.
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This was such a moving story with lots of heartbreak but also empowering. 

This is one that won't leave me for a while.
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This was not a favorite and I ended up dnfing about half way through. I just don’t think this book was good for me. Others will enjoy but it just want my thing.
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BookBrowse members glowingly reviewed Wade in the Water for our First Impressions Program, rating it an average 4.7-stars. Reviews available via link
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Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah is the story of Ella, a Black girl rejected and abused by her family, and the months she spends with Miss Katherine St. James, a white woman writing her thesis on the Civil Rights Movement and its impacts on society. The events are told from the perspective of both characters, but make no mistake, this is Ella’s story. Miss St. James is just passing through.

This isn’t a story about how a black girl and white woman influence each other’s lives; it’s a story about how they don’t. Miss St. James sees herself as a northern liberal, but this self-image is challenged when she returns to the south and rents a house on the black side of town. She befriends Ella, welcoming the girl into her home and bonding over a love of language.

Ella finds herself ambivalent about her relationship with Katherine. The woman cares for her and provides the affection Ella craves at home. But there’s always a bit of uncertainty in the back of her mind, especially when Miss St. James explains her thesis research. Her premise about the Civil Rights Movement focuses heavily on the impacts suffered by white southern farmers. But a white woman who chooses to live in a black neighborhood can’t be racist? Or can she?

Wade in the Water is ultimately about Ella’s self-discovery, and it turns the “white savior” trope on its head. Ella comes to recognize the love and support she has within her community - the kind souls who have quietly become her substitute family. Thanks to their wisdom and guidance, she learns to love herself.

Wade in the Water is a book that begs for discussion. I highly recommend this title for book clubs and readers who enjoy historical fiction and social commentary.

Thank you to Amistad Press and NetGalley for providing this ARC.
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This was such a good, thought provoking story with characters that are so well developed. Thank you for the ARC!,
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Now this book is what you call a page turner because once you start you don't want to put it down.  Most of the book is about some difficult subjects like racism, abuse, adultery etc. This story takes place in the black community back in the 1980s and the characters are very interesting because the author did a great job on character development.  It's a good coming of age story and it's told through the eyes of Ells.  Brace yourself for this one and I highly recommend.
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This was a slooooow burn. Although well written, the story never really came together it just kinda happened (if that makes sense). It’s not a horrible read, but it’s also not memorable. It was alright for a debut, I’d definitely get this author another chance going forward.
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I really want a book club discussion of this book! So many things to talk about that I can't delve too deeply into in a review read by people who haven't read the book yet. So please read it! The characters in this book are amazingly rendered. Ella is an 11 year old middle child who has a different father from her siblings and is ostracized and abused for this reason. However, it only goes so far as to curbing her precocious personality. Ms. James was raised surrounded by racism. Though the Civil War had been fought a century prior, her family still behaved as though their employees were enslaved. I kept having to look at the date of the chapters to confirm what century the book was in. She thinks she has gotten past it and thinks she is doing good. A few times the thought "white savior" came to mind, but it never stuck. The central theme of the book is the friendship between the outcast, Ella, and Ms. James. But this is only a gateway to the greater themes of racism, community, and a person's ability to defy their childhood.
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When I read the summary of this novel I was immediately intrigued. Set in 1980s rural Mississippi, it tells the story of Ella, a young Black girl who befriends a middle-aged white woman named Katherine St. James. Katherine is in town researching her thesis about race relations. She moves into a house on the Black side of town and starts asking questions of the town's residents. 

This novel touches on so many important themes--colorism (Ella is very dark-skinned since she's a product of her mom's relationship with an African man who passed through their town), sexual abuse (Ella's stepfather), racism (Katherine is the daughter of a KKK member), violence, white supremacy, mental health issues, etc. The author handles all of them with sensitivity, which I admired, but the lack of even minimal closure for some left me feeling wanting in the end. 

Ella's story is more compelling than Katherine's, especially as a coming-of-age tale. She's precocious and her personality jumps off the page. You cheer, cry, and ache for her and her struggles. Katherine is an enigma that slowly gets revealed as the novel progresses. Her first-person portions were interesting--and admittedly something we don't normally get to read--but they still ended with many "what happens now?" 

I enjoyed this read and appreciated the author's attempt to cover so many facets of racism, white supremacy, and the vestiges they leave, but I still felt like not enough was resolved to make it a 5-star read. I look forward to more from this debut author! Her voice is strong and her story-telling intriguing.  

Thanks to @netgalley for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
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NetGalley ARC Educator 550974

God's gonna trouble the water. Just as the spiritual, Wade in the Water evokes great emotion. It makes you ponder your life and life's choices. This story is told from two point of views, an 11 year old and a middle age woman. Both from different backgrounds and life experiences. There is mentions of the KKK, racism, racial motivated killings, colorism and infidelity. My hope is indeed that the studios of the world take notice of this book and bring it to the world. It's a story that the world needs to see, especially in this day and age with some much erasure of history and the civil rights movement.
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Ella’s story … Kates story … incredible stories. BUT I wanted to hear more about Ella’s story and more about Kate’s story. I would have preferred them to be two different books. After finishing it I wanted to know more! I felt like there’s stories didn’t mesh well… They both had major life altering events happen to them and it was rushed through. 

Overall, the book was written well and I’ll definitely read another book by the author.
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A book with strong themes, is well-written and is the kind of book that I'd wish more publishers were putting out. 

There's no hand-waving away racism, or "solving" it. The book bounces between two POVs; Ella, an unwanted black girl, and Ms. St. James, a well-off white woman doing research on civil rights. An enjoyable read.
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This is what 'The Help' could have been, if it hadn't been written by a white woman, and hadn't included such obvious white saviorism.

Set in Mississippi in the 60's, the story follows Ella, a young Black girl who, even within her own community, isn't as accepted as those she sees around her. Themes of colourism and outright racism are heavily used throughout the story, bringing the realities of that day and age in American history to light for the reader.

The writing was strong, and this is a very promising novel from a new author, which leaves me excited to see what else may come from them. Although it dealt with heavy topics, these are also important topics to learn about; to ensure that we never forget about this period in time, and also to make us reflect on how far we have come - and, indeed, how far we yet have to go.

A lot of the characters were really well fleshed out and likeable; from the main character of Ella, to old Mr Macabe, to Nate, and Miss Claudia. Though Ella was dealing with a lot, both at home and personally, she had a strong, vibrant community around her, and was able to recognise her place in it by the end of the novel, whilst also coming to accept and appreciate her own identity as a child born out of sin, to a father from Africa whom she had never known.

In between, we had the jarring truth of the sole white character, who was far from the white savior often depicted in stories of the time. Though Kate Somerville tried to distance herself from her murderous, racist, Klansman of a father, she serves as evidence that racism runs deep; and as a foil, in some ways, to those characters who refused to turn out the way their parents were.

I really, really enjoyed reading this one, even with the heavy and often dark themes. I felt it was well written and opened up nuances discussion regarding the themes it tackled, especially touching on the colorism that many Black people face even within their own cultures and communities.

Excited to see what is next for this author.
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Nyani Nkrumah’s fiction debut “Wade in the Water” uses an unlikely friendship to examine the impact of racism from two drastically different angles, one from the point of view of a little Black girl named Ella who lives in a segregated town in 1980s Mississippi, the other from the perspective of a middle-aged white academic who moves down the street from Ella one summer day. Both are survivors of the systems that raised them and have endured unconscionable abuses. By placing these contrasting characters on a collision course, Nkrumah has woven together a tragic tale — yet one not lacking humor or hope — about two people seeking to triumph over circumstances beyond their control.

Life has been stacked against 11-year-old Ella since before she was born. The result of her married mother’s infidelity, wedged between her stepfather’s children in birth order and ostracized for possessing the darkest skin color in all of fictional Ricksville, Mississippi, she has struggled to find the place where she belongs.

Katherine St. James is a woman who has turned her back on a past she believes she has overcome. The favored daughter of a KKK leader responsible for unconscionable hate crimes, she was raised with venom firmly planted in her heart. After a series of brutal aggressions land her in a psychiatric hospital, she sets out on a quest to renounce her ingrained racism and reclaim her life. Now pursuing an advanced degree at Princeton, she returns to her home state and settles in the nearby town of Ricksville to research and write her thesis...

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Wade in the Water tells the story of Ella, a darker-skinned black girl living in rural Mississippi in the eighties and Katherine St. James, a middle-aged Caucasian woman visiting Ella's community to research a thesis paper. While the story focuses on challenging topics such as racism and class issues, at its center is a journey of self-discovery and self-love for Ella. 

Katherine's character is complex as she is both grappling with her own identity and simultaneously trying to rationalize her father's role in a series of race-driven murders in the 60s and  prove to herself that she is not like him (although her thoughts on her thesis prove otherwise). 

I loved Ella's character from the start as she was ever optimistic and hopeful despite her life circumstances and was only searching for a sense of belonging. The evolution of her character throughout the book was artfully designed and I was rooting for her the whole way.

I recommend this one to those of you who loved The Vanishing Half.
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