Member Review

Cover Image: The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer

Pub Date:

Review by

Zuri S, Reviewer

My Recommendation

"I am here, telling this story, and not from the grave, not yet, but from the here and now, peering back into another time, when we were Tasked, and close to the earth, and close to a power that baffled the scholars and flummoxed the Quality, a power, like our music, like our dance, that they cannot grasp, because they cannot remember."


Fellow readers, I am really not sure where to begin with this beautiful debut novel by author Ta-Nehisi Coates. I chose to only read reviews for The Water Dancer once I finished reading the book myself, and was surprised by the wide range of opinions on this lyrical and imaginative story. Many reviews praise it for the way in which Coates stays true to his voice through the narration of Hiram Walker, "born into bondage" and "gifted with a mysterious power". However, other reviews felt that it would have been better written as a shorter piece of non-fiction. With those reviews, I vehemently disagree. 

The Water Dancer is a sweeping novel about family, memory and what it truly means to be free. Although it's true that the lessons taught through Hiram's story could have been told through Coates' well-established non-fiction lens; with the power of oral storytelling at its core, these lessons will stay with me in a way that a non-fiction version never would have. Coates has taken the old adage that "to know where you're going, you have to know where you've come from" and turned it into a well-researched piece of history infused with the magic of a people not willing to forget or be forgotten.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for this advanced reader copy, Fraser Valley Regional Library for supplementing me with a hard copy, and most importantly, thank you to Ta-Nehisi Coates for gifting the world with your thought-provoking and lyrical prose.

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