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The Water Dancer


The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

21/25 | Started 06.03.21 • Finished 06.30.21 | 3.5 stars


This story follows the life of a slave named Hiram Walker, born as the son of his enslaved mother and his white master. Early on in his life, his mother was sold off, and he lost all memory of her even though he's been blessed with a photographic memory. As he grows up, he develops a unique relationship with water. He eventually yearns to escape from his bondage along with a young woman named Sophia.


I think now that this is how the running so often begins, that it is settled upon in that moment you understand the great depth of your peril. For it is not simply by slavery that you are captured, but by a kind of fraud, which paints its executors as guardians at the gate, staving off African savagery, when it is they themselves who are savages, who are Mordred, who are the Dragon, in Camelot’s clothes. And at that moment of revelation, of understanding, running is not a thought, not even as a dream, but a need, no different than the need to flee a burning house.

Without giving away too much of the story, Hiram becomes part of the Underground, as he tries to harness his connection to water and how it can benefit the organization. This involvement includes meeting the famed Harriet Tubman, with whom he develops a special friendship. Hiram is sent back to his "home" at Lockless, where he serves as his father's caretaker, while waiting for the time to escape again with Sophia and another slave named Thena.


So many of us who went, went with dignity and respect. And it occurred to me how absurd it was to cling to morality when surrounded by people who had none.

Although it is the thrust of the story, I felt that the inclusion of the "magic" of water brought down the true bravery and courage of those involved with the Underground. Hence the docking of some stars. However, it was well written, and I came to enjoy many of the characters.




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