Girl Gone Reading: The Water Dancer

"We believed in the rumor, in the Underground."

I'm not quite sure how to write about this novel in order to do it the justice it deserves, which means you should stop reading now, buy it, and sit down to read immediately.

The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, introduces us to the main character, Hiram Walker. Hiram was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation and is the son of the plantation owner and a slave. His mother was sold and he has no memory of her at all - and this is where the magical part of his story is introduced. Hiram has a photographic memory which for him is a blessing and a curse, but what comes with that ability is the discovery of a power he didn't know he possessed.

This discovery of his 'power' leads him to the Underground Railroad, to a vast array of people fighting for the abolition of slavery, and back to the estate where he was born again. Through this, we hear the stories of many others - almost as if Hiram is a conduit for what they have to say. Some of it is brutal, and some beautiful. Even though this book is fiction, I felt I gained knowledge in ways I would never have expected. I felt I was given an opportunity to be a fly on a wall to a time this generation cannot imagine with any senses of realism.

"I was running, when what I needed was to fly."

I found myself in tears often, not solely because of Hiram's self-discovery and awareness, but because of what is happening around him and to others. There are painful truths intertwined with a magical aspect I will leave for you to discover on your own. There are parts that seem to be very slow, but instead of skimming through, I read again. And again. There's a message the author is trying to give to the reader and if you remain patient and open, I hope you will discover it as I did.

About the author:

"Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Between the World and Me, a finalist for the National Book Award. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story “The Case for Reparations.”

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