the water dancer by ta-nehisi coates + galatians

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of those authors who can write with such depth that nearly every word on every page leaps into your very consciousness and makes you rethink what you thought you knew in the world. He challenges your compass in all areas while teaching you something valuable whether he is unpacking racism or dissecting ANY social issue for the matter or delivering an impactful fictional and magically real narrative that leaves you gasping after each chapter. He is one of my favorite authors and I was so happy that Katie over at Dutton Books thought of me for early reading of The Water Dancer. I don’t believe that we EVER have to pick ONE favorite book, but I will say that this one is my favorite of this year so far!

I am going to try to format this blog post in a way that will keep your attention. I have notes upon notes and if I copied my notes verbatim you would be bored out of your mind scrolling through endless text.

Edit by me using free stock photos    Title: The Fountains of silence     genre: magical realism    Author: Ta-Nehisi coates Publisher & date: One world, September 24, 2019

Edit by me using free stock photos

Title: The Fountains of silence

genre: magical realism

Author: Ta-Nehisi coates
Publisher & date: One world, September 24, 2019

From the first page I felt the literary spirit of the great Toni Morrison. I cannot figure out how Coates manages to write such a preeminent story so delicately yet at the same time give the reader all the rawness and reality of the deplorable system of slavery. Within the painful reminders of this story of such a time, lies an idea of how indomitable and transformative our memory can be.

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Hiram, the main character, prides himself on his memory. However, when he was a young boy, Hiram’s mother was sold into slavery by his father which left him with no memory of her. This is such a disheartening reminder of how our traumas can affect our memories - how we can suppress things that happened to us to self preserve. The mind has so many complexities. What makes this story unique is that although Hiram was stripped of the memory of his mother, he was given a gift. I can tell you that I have never wanted a gift so magical to be so real.

Hiram has a brother, Maynard. Sidebar: I thought the relationship between them was compelling. I believed Maynard cared for his brother very much. He felt responsible for him as he did so many others. While driving, Hiram had a vision of his mother that sent him and his brother veering into the water.

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Maynard did not survive, but Hiram did. As the story continued, many of the Tasked {slaves} spoke highly of Maynard, but Hiram was quick to remind them that he was not the person they portrayed him to be. He did not understand how someone becomes a saint in death when they were anything but in life. The above quote from pg. 44 is Hiram’s dream. I think his dream was about the burdens he carried and his desire not just for physical freedom, but freedom from the responsibility of those burdens including his brother and the Tasked. He wanted to emerge from the darkness into the light. I love the part of the passage where it says “…until looking up I saw a silver moon…” - a silver lining, perhaps, that makes freedom is within reach.

His relationship with Thena, a woman who lived on the plantation, and was misunderstood, blossomed throughout the story. She became like a second mom to him. She gave him tough love and hard truths but it was what he needed because Hiram, while determined, was stubborn to the core. I felt Thena’s pain and how so much loss had hardened her heart.

To sort of rewind a bit, I thought it clever of Coates to use the Tasked & the Quality to identify class - the slaves & the slave masters, the house negro & the field negro, the low whites and those of means, the haves and have nots if you will. However, as I continued to read, those two terms could not be held simply to just identifying these groups. I saw them as quite more. The Tasked represents the weight we carry within us to push past the most heinous of circumstances into a better life. The Tasked, for me, came more to mean the responsibilities we feel for everyone & everything around us even when we can’t control things. Hiram had a savior complex - heavy is the head that wears the crown. I see so much of myself in Hiram in this regard. The Quality represents the way in which we push past those burdens or not. Will you fight or will you cave?

You will discover the importance of the cowrie shells.

You will discover the importance of the cowrie shells.

Hiram chose to fight. Fast forward. The gift that was bestowed upon Hiram is called conduction which is awakened by memory. I don’t want to spoil you in this review, but knowing that Hiram had this power made me cry. I envisioned how easily the lives of slaves could have been transformed if such a power was in fact real. I can only dream. Hiram being aware of this power, almost dying and losing his brother evokes in him the courage to escape & also help the people he loves to escape from the vile walls of the Virginia plantation where he was born and raised. You will be blown away to discover what historical figure Coates ties into this part of the story. I actually gasped out loud!

Coates REALLY tapped into an overarching theme of accessing ones transformative power - that something that is uniquely your strength - via perseverance, via faith and/or via memory. Although this story is fictional, the layered and entangled story of African Americans in America is not. The stories are told through generations and inherently shape the present. It’s the memory of these stories that either harnesses the power within or creates a perpetual state of victimhood. Hiram chose the power within.

The pacing was a bit slow in the last few chapters but this doesn’t take anything away from it. I wanted to include a few things I post-it’d {can we make this a word?} about Hiram’s memory that truly reflects how momentous it can be. I hope you enjoyed this review and you bookmark this one for the near future. Keep scrolling though!!!

Rating: 5/5

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This will be the first of many blog posts where I will be tying my bible study into my book reviews. I’m learning and am NO theological scholar, but I really want to share with you because I know the power of God’s truth. The word that I choose for The Water Dancer is…

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What does the bible say about freedom? There are a few things I can tackle on this topic. One important thing is the argument of many unbelievers that God is anti-freedom - “condones slavery". This is the danger in cherry picking scripture to make a point {on either side} without FULL study {hermeneutics}. To understand all the complexities of the bible, the chapters HAVE to be read in their entirety both Old AND New Testament. My friends, the bible is THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD, of course there was slavery and there are many scriptures about it not for the faint of heart. The question then becomes “How do we love God when this atrocity is so clearly stated in the bible!?” This will be a whole separate blog post. There is far too much to unpack and I am still studying. However I do want to talk about freedom in Christ.

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Let’s give some context to this scripture.

Who is speaking? The apostle Paul

To whom is he speaking? The Galatians {slaves}

Why is he speaking to them? He is concerned that they have turned their backs on God for the world & forgotten that through the spirit of God’s son, Jesus Christ, they were made free. He is reminding them that in their freedom they were called to serve others and abandoned their flesh.

For even greater context go back and read Galatians 4 and see how Paul uses an allegory of two women - a slave woman and a free woman. If you decide to go back and read Galatians 4 and do not understand it please message or email me and we can discuss. As a woman, I paused, but had to read it multiple times to get an understanding.

In the Water Dancer Hiram could not just rely on the physical work it would take to get to freedom. He had to access the transformative GIFT he was given THROUGH his memory to HELP his loved ones and OTHERS who were enslaved. This reminded me of Paul’s allegory. THROUGH rebirth and faith in Christ {God’s GIFT} we have access to freedom and freedom comes by way of salvation and salvation comes by Christ only. Did you catch that? Say it three more times.

God’s plan IS salvation through His Son. I know. I know. How many IG posts, tweets, sermons etc. have you heard/read referencing God’s plan for your life. God’s plan for your life is just that HIS plan. The call to freedom that Paul speaks of is through Jesus. We are to take this opportunity of freedom and not use it for our own fleshly desires but to give unto and serve OTHERS. Hiram used the gift he was given not for himself but for those around Him. THAT is the reward.

This blog post was WAY TOO MUCH FUN while also convicting LOL!! Hope you enjoyed it and I will see you at the next read!! :)