AN OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR: We Were Eight Years in Power, a collection of mostly previously published essays, was an instant bestseller and named to many “best of the year” lists. Between the World and Me, his last original work, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Altogether, his three books have sold nearly 2 million copies in all formats.
HIGHLY ANTICIPATED FICTION DEBUT:Ta-Nehisi’s signature lyrical power has helped fuel the anticipation of his fiction debut. He has created buzz by reading fragments of the work at standing-room-only events from the AWP conference to Shakespeare and Company in Paris to Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.
LOYAL FOLLOWING: Coates’s core readership has followed him from The Atlantic to his bestselling books to his first foray into imaginative literature, a critically acclaimed, blockbuster run of Marvel’s The Black Panther, which sold over 300k copies and helped shaped the record-breaking movie, for which he was a consultant.
COMBINES FAMILY SAGA, LOVE STORY, HISTORICAL EPIC, AND DAZZLING SPECULATIVE FICTION: The book draws on deep research and the author’s own unfettered imagination to dramatically recast the story of slavery and freedom as an emotionally charged adventure with the highest stakes.
“Coates balances the horrors of slavery against the fantastical. He extends the idea of the gifts of the disenfranchised to include a kind of superpower. But The Water Dancer is very much its own book, and its gestures toward otherworldliness remain grounded. In the end, it is a novel interested in the psychological effects of slavery, a grief that Coates is especially adept at parsing…. In Coates’s world, an embrace can be a revelation, rare and astonishing.”—Esi Edugyan, The New York Times Book Review
“The most surprising thing about The Water Dancer may be its unambiguous narrative ambition. This isn’t a typical first novel…. The Water Dancer is a jeroboam of a book, a crowd-pleasing exercise in breakneck and often occult storytelling that tonally resembles the work of Stephen King as much as it does the work of Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead and the touchstone African-American science-fiction writer Octavia Butler…. It is flecked with forms of wonder-working that push at the boundaries of what we still seem to be calling magical realism.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“While neither polemical nor wholly fantastical, the story draws on skills [Coates] developed in those other genres…. The story’s bracing realism is periodically overcome by the mist of fantasy. The result is a budding superhero discovering the dimensions of his power within the confines of a historical novel that critiques the function of racial oppression…. Coates isn’t dropping supernatural garnish onto The Water Dancer any more than Toni Morrison sends a ghost whooshing through Beloved for cheap thrills. Instead, Coates’s fantastical elements are deeply integral to his novel, a way of representing something larger and more profound than the confines of realism could contain.”—The Washington Post
“Mythic language pervades the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates…. With The Water Dancer…we pay witness to a writer unchained…a writer finally able to marry novelistic tendencies to the form…. The fistfuls of firmament Coates is able to bring back to us are a wonder to behold…. The horrors depicted never felt rote or part of any genre rulebook. In highlighting families, Coates made his characters individuals…. Elements of the adventure novel, of the heist novel, of the romance are all there. But Coates expertly subverts the expectations each of those labels carries…. The book does not lack for scene-stealers…. Who is he talking to when he demands remembering? He’s talking to us. All of us.”—Tochi Onyebuchi, Tordotcom
“Studied and meticulous, the novel is a slave narrative that depicts the quotidian horrors of family separation. Even so, it’s remarkably tender: The Water Dancer is also a romance.”—The Atlantic
“An experience in taking [Toni] Morrison’s ‘chances for liberation’ literally: What if memory had the power to transport enslaved people to freedom?’…The most moving part of The Water Dancer [is] the possibility it offers of an alternate history…. The book’s most poignant and painful gift is the temporary fantasy that all the people who leaped off slave ships and into the Atlantic were not drowning themselves in terror and anguish, but going home.”—NPR
“An electrifying, inventive novel…[Coates] loses none of his mastery for conveying complex ideas and blending a deep knowledge of American history with scintillating wordsmanship…. His craft shows on every page. He gives this story—and these men and women—the care and space they demand and deserve…. A haunting adventure story told through the tough lens of history, The Water Dancer is a quintessentially American story of self-creation, doubt, and elevation.”—The Boston Globe
“The best writers—the best storytellers, in particular—possess the enchanting, irresistible power to take the reader somewhere else. Ta-Nehisi Coates imagines the furthest reach of that power as a means to transcend borders and bondage in The Water Dancer, a spellbinding look at the impact of slavery that uses meticulously researched history and hard-won magic to further illuminate this country’s original sin…. Exploring the loaded issues of race and slavery has become yet more fuel for today’s culture wars, but an underlying message of liberation through the embrace of history forms the true subject of The Water Dancer. … Coates envisions the transcendent potential in acknowledging and retelling stories of trauma from the past as a means out of darkness. With recent family separations at the U.S. border, this message feels all the more timely.”—Los Angeles Times
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