Read advance reader review of Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah, page 3 of 4

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Wade in the Water

A Novel

by Nyani Nkrumah

Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah X
Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 320 pages

    Jan 30, 2024, 368 pages


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There are currently 23 member reviews
for Wade in the Water
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  • Leslie R. (Arlington, VA)
    insights and questions
    In a small town in rural Mississippi a white Princeton scholar forms a friendship with a precocious pre-teen black girl. I was prepared to not like this book before I read the first page. Having grown up in the South in the late fifties, I lived this era so I am wary of authors who get it wrong. This book, however, delivers unique believability to an unlikely plot. The main story takes place in the early eighties in Ridgeville, Mississippi, and is told in two voices: that of Ella, the young black girl, and that of Ms. St. James, who becomes Ella's mentor even as she herself is doing research and writing a thesis on the effects of the Civil Rights movement.
    Ella interacts with a number of well-developed black characters, each of whom has an important influence on her life. Her white mentor, Ms. St. James, exposes herself in alternating chapters, describing her own Mississippi childhood in a neighboring town. Her revelations become more and more shocking.
    This author skillfully sheds a light on the complexities of the racial situation in America and leaves the readers with new insights and many provocative questions.
  • Paula K. (Champaign, IL)
    Humanizing the Racial Divide
    This impressive debut by Nyani Nkrumah came as a very welcome surprise. Unlike the ordinary novel of a friendship between a preadolescent Black girl and an older Princeton female graduate student in 1982 that I expected, Nkrumah has written a moving story that humanizes the ongoing struggle between Black and White inhabitants of a segregated Mississippi town located near Philadelphia, site of the infamous murder of three civil rights activists in the 1960s. The novel grabbed me from the start and kept me in its thrall to the end. Highly recommended.
  • Wendy P. (Jourdanton, TX)
    Impressive Debut
    This book did take a while for me to be invested -- about a quarter of the way through, but once I did I was impressed by what a sympathetic character Ella was. A moving coming of age story that handles tough topics like racism, prejudice, color lines and sexual abuse. A nice touch was we also saw the point of view of Ms. St. James, which gave the narrative an added depth.
  • Elizabeth L. (Langhorne, PA)
    Engaging and heartfelt
    The story of Miss St. James and Ella will stay with me for a long time. I found it to be an easy but thought provoking read, and I could not wait to pick it up each day. Katherine's story is so unfamiliar to me, and I found it hard to believe that it happened between the late 50's to 1983. Yet, I was intrigued by the challenges she faced growing up in the South and then reconciling that upbringing with what she learned in Princeton. Her friendship with Ella was an important part of the story, but I felt that Ella stole the show. While my heart broke for Ella because of the abuse she endured, deep down I knew she would find her way. I wanted to know more about where her road leads beyond these pages. I hope they make it into a movie or mini-series.
  • Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)
    We Can't Erase The Past
    This novel was a well-written, bittersweet story of how decades-old racism and colorism continue to impact the lives of black people and white people in their small Southern community. The parallel experiences of Ella and Kate and their resulting pain related to skin color and perceptions of racial inferiority highlight the overall theme of darkness and light. This novel exposes the emotional and physical impact of racial hatred starting with the secrets and lies of slavery to the Jim Crow Era and beyond. Building on its theme of the black and white experience in a small Southern town, the author skillfully weaves a riveting story around the ancient wisdom that what is done in the dark will be brought to light.
  • Janet H. (Long Beach, CA)
    A Unique story
    Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah is not an easy book to read, despite excellent writing, unique characters and a well known piece of US history. It was a painful discussion of racism. It was a peek into a family that treated their children to violence and attempts at incest. I wanted to put it down, unread, but I did like the main character and hoped all would somehow turn out well for her. Unfortunately, it is not a book I can recommend to my book clubs or friends.
  • Vicki C. (Franklin, TN)
    Wade in the Water
    I found this to be a quick and enjoyable read. Ella was a delightful young girl full of hope in spite of a very difficult home life. She was fortunate to have two older men to talk to who, I think, helped her to maintain her faith and her positive outlook during the most difficult of times. She had her hopes dashed more than once but most significantly in the time frame written about by a white woman who befriended her and then who failed her. Fortunately, she had a strength I thought unusual in such a young girl and that, combined with her Faith, saw her through the difficult times. Having spent a great deal of my youth growing up in the Deep South in the sixties, the story line itself was very familiar to me and, I think, fairly presented. I definitely recommend this book.

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