Excerpt from Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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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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Print Excerpt

My daddy's a king, she would say to Bessie when they played.

"That's right, chile," Bessie would agree.

When he got angry at the nigger boys, his voice would thunder, like a vicious storm had come across the land, and Bessie would come running out of the house and gather her up and take her inside.

"Nothing for you to see," Bessie would whisper, even though she wanted to stay and watch what her father would do. While he thundered, she could hear, from inside, screams and shrills and all kinds of commotion, but Bessie wouldn't even allow her to look. Sometimes there was the swooshing sound of a slap or a whip, over and over again, and the screams then seemed to fill the sky.

"What's he doing?" she would ask Bessie.

"Just making sure everyone is working good," Bessie would say.

Mary would suck her teeth hard.

Sometimes her mother would come out, too, and scream along with her daddy at whoever was making them mad. It was a concert of screams, her mother's high-pitched excited shrieks, and her daddy's bellows. It was the only time Bessie seemed to get annoyed. "What's that woman doing out there?" she would mutter. "Slavery times been over. No need to treat 'em like that." Mary always had an answer. "Woman just adding her two cents. Lying on the couch all day, this is the only exercise she get. Wish she come in here to get some exercise cooking, and cleaning and pressing." Mary always seemed to find that funny, and she would laugh and slap her thigh and push on Bessie, who just pushed her away. "Stop it," Bessie would say, "the chile can hear you talking about her ma like that."

Mary would make a face and say, "Let her hear how lazy that woman is. And they say black people lazy." Mary would suck her teeth over and over again.

She didn't like Mary one bit, but oh, how she loved Bessie.

Excerpted from Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah. Copyright © 2023 by Nyani Nkrumah. Excerpted by permission of Amistad. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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