The Water Dancer
by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Overview -
A boldly imagined work of magic and adventure from the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me.

Every plantation is a house of spies and intrigue, engineered to hide a fundamental reality: that it is built on slavery and built by the enslaved, its true geniuses and laborers stashed away in basements and fields, sleeping under beds and entering drawing rooms from passageways hidden behind sliding walls, their faces masks of compliance, their hearts beating with betrayal and insurrection. But against whom?

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage--and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child--but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn't understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram's private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he's ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind--but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss.

This is a bracingly original vision of the world of slavery, written with the narrative force of a great adventure. Driven by the author's bold imagination and striking ability to bring readers deep into the interior lives of his brilliantly rendered characters, The Water Dancer is the story of America's oldest struggle--the struggle to tell the truth--from one of our most exciting thinkers and beautiful writers.

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More About The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
 
 
 
Overview

A boldly imagined work of magic and adventure from the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me.

Every plantation is a house of spies and intrigue, engineered to hide a fundamental reality: that it is built on slavery and built by the enslaved, its true geniuses and laborers stashed away in basements and fields, sleeping under beds and entering drawing rooms from passageways hidden behind sliding walls, their faces masks of compliance, their hearts beating with betrayal and insurrection. But against whom?

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage--and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child--but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn't understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram's private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he's ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind--but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss.

This is a bracingly original vision of the world of slavery, written with the narrative force of a great adventure. Driven by the author's bold imagination and striking ability to bring readers deep into the interior lives of his brilliantly rendered characters, The Water Dancer is the story of America's oldest struggle--the struggle to tell the truth--from one of our most exciting thinkers and beautiful writers.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780399590597
  • ISBN-10: 0399590595
  • Publisher: One World
  • Publish Date: September 2019
  • Page Count: 416
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > African American - Historical
Books > Fiction > Fantasy - Historical
Books > Fiction > Magical Realism

 
BookPage Reviews

The Water Dancer

Hiram was born into “tasking”—what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls slavery in this beautiful, wrenching novel—but he has always stood slightly apart from the other people who are “Tasked” on the Virginian estate called Lockless. 

The son of an enslaved woman named Rose, Hiram learned early in life that his father was the Lockless master, Howell Walker. Although Hiram worked in the apple orchards and the main house, he had something the other Tasked would never dream of: lessons from the Walker family tutor. But the lessons were no gift. Howell Walker’s plan was to prepare Hiram to spend his life caring for his older half-brother, Maynard, the charmless, dull heir to Lockless. A naturally smart child, Hiram subdued his thirst for knowledge. “I knew what happened to coloreds who were too curious about the world beyond Virginia,” he says.

Driving Maynard home one night from the horse races, Hiram is thinking of nothing but his “desire for an escape from Maynard and the doom of his mastery. And then it came.” Hiram doesn’t know why a strange mist comes up off the river or why the bridge falls away, revealing his long-gone mother dancing. 

He later learns this is Conduction, the rare ability to transport oneself on the power of memories. It’s a prized skill that recruiters on the Underground Railroad hope Hiram will put to use for their cause. They move him to Philadelphia, where he is shocked to see for the first time people of all colors mingling freely. He works to harness his gift of Conduction, while still feeling the pull of his people who have been sold and scattered throughout the South.

The Water Dancer confronts our bitter history and its violence and ugliness, which still resonate generations later. Coates’ fierce, thought-provoking essays on race composed We Were Eight Years in Power and the National Book Award winner Between the World and Me. Here he weaves a clear-eyed story that has elements of magic but is grounded in a profoundly simple truth: A person’s humanity is tied to their freedom.

“Breathing,” Hiram says. “I just dream of breathing.”

 
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