Enslavement, Ideas of family & the human spirit
American author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates has finally written his debut novel. Reading the surrealist story, The Water Dancer, is a trek in trance. Before his outstanding attempt to write a novel, Coates had already established himself as a brilliant and versatile writer of prose. He had become hugely popular during his days as the national correspondent of The Atlantic writing on a wide range of social and political issues. He had also authored monographs, and even a Captain America and a Black Panther series for Marvel Comics.
The Water Dancer sparkles with exquisite sentences that take a masterfully crafted story forward. Hiram Walker, the protagonist, is the narrator living in the mid-19th century. Hiram’s father owns a plantation in Virginia while his mother, an enslaved woman, has been sold away.
The absence of his mother is a heartbreaking tragedy. Hiram, despite his eidetic memory, cannot seem to remember anything about her. He has in his life a good-fornothing half-brother, whom he talks about in startlingly vivid and powerful prose, Social instinct and grace had not found him in manhood. He gambled and drank to excess, because he could. He fought in the street, because no matter how throttled, he could never be throttled from his throne.
The protagonist’s voice is a revelation of Coates’s ability to sculpt marvellous sentences, which keep the reader
The author’s deep-rooted understanding of race and racism is famously well-known. The Water Dancer takes us back in time to portray the history of the enslaved. With his evocative prose and reflections on vanished life and times, the author makes sure his reader doesn’t forget that slavery has inflicted the worst form of humiliation on luckless human beings. Hiram is shaken to the core when his father sells his mother. The woman and her son have no emotional significance in the man’s life.
History and fantasy merge seamlessly in The Water Dancer . The story is about Hiram’s journey, which serves as the medium for looking at America’s past and present. Of course, it can be also read as a simple narrative about the illegitimate son of a slave owner and his enslaved lover. He lives in a place whose soil has been depleted, a problem caused by growing tobacco.
In an eventful plot, he could recognise his mother in unusual circumstances fall in love with his uncle’s concubine and escape with her. He would eventually come across the abolitionists of underground Railroad.
There is much more to the story, of course, but sharing more details would ruin the charm of reading the novel.
Coates is a past master of non-fiction. He is spoken of as one of the Important American writers of his generation. His brilliant work Between the World and Me that reflect’s on America’s history of race by sketching his personal journey through life is required reading for anybody interested in the complex subject of inter-racial relations in modern times.
The author’s background, in other words, is a significant reason why The Water Dancer’s release would have evoked immense curiosity among his readers.
The dazzling debut about a dark period in American history will disappoint few, while Coates is likely to take a new step forward to write another novel to his devoted readers. At least, one hopes he will.