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Book Group: The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 5 Elul 5780

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

August 25, 7 - 8:30 pm

In Ta-Nehisi Coates’s fiction debut, he creates a speculative imaging of America's pre-Civil War history with stops in both southern and northern states. He writes about the Tasked, rather than using the phrase slave or slavery, and that shift in language immediately opens the reader into seeing the narrative with new eyes.  Hiram Walker, a young slave and his owner’s son Maynard (who is also Hiram’s half-brother) are en route to the Lockless plantation. Their journey takes a fatal turn when a crumbling bridge costs Maynard his life and floods Hiram’s mind with otherworldly visions. After the accident, Hiram’s only desire is to escape Lockless, a yearning that leads to him become a conductor in the Underground Railroad, forcing Hiram to reckon with the cost of freedom. A speculative imagining of America’s past, The Water Dancer is an applause-worthy debut from a tried and true visionary." Through a range of strong characters, including cameos by Harriet Tubman, Coates touches on themes of freedom, separation of families, family loyalty, white allies, and the power of memory and much more. We are invited to think about both the personal and societal choices and implications of actions for families and communities. Coates is well-known as one of this country's most important thinker and writer about race, and this novel allows him to explore issues of race within the genre of speculative fiction with an element of magical realism. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, and recipient of the National Magazine Award, and the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Discussion led by Chris Coughlin.

 

 

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