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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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There are currently 18 reader reviews for Wade in the Water
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Susan B. (Hahira, GA)

Wade in the Water
When I read the title, I immediately thought of Alvin Ailey..
..but having now read this marvelous first novel by an up and coming star..I have a totally different prospective..
A captivating and vivid portrait of our turbulent past, present, and characters that will stay with you. Opening in the summer of 1982, deep in Mississippi, you meet 11 year old Ella, aware but still naive to the world outside her fairly insular black community. Jump back to 1955,
Philadelphia, Mississippi and meet Kate, a privileged white girl living a totally different lifestyle. We watch as the years progress through the turbulent 60s and Kate's prejudices grow as she ages and is influenced by her bigoted father and community. We are reminded of the horrific news that greeted us too many times on the news depending on where in this country you lived.
By the 80s these two will cross paths. Ella, no stranger to prejudice within her own family and community combined with her community elders' mutual distrust of the opposite race comes face to face with a thoroughly reinvented Kate. Now known as Katherine, perhaps trying to atone for the sins of the past, she has the temerity to enter Ella's world. Posing as a researcher, PhD candidate, then as teacher and mentor, she must also confront her well hidden demons. This is also a coming of age story in many ways as Ella's tries to navigate her family and her own community as her awareness grows as to her role in life.
Vivid characters and voices abound. Our past is not always so distant.
The truth will always surface and how we handle it helps us to grow,
The author knows these voices. Her characters leap off the page, her descriptions are straight out of newsreel, newspapers,and are very cinematic. I could not put this down once I started. As ugly as our past was, it's important to be reminded.
Power Reviewer
Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)

A Phenomenal Debut
I was immediately drawn into this story of a relationship that develops between Ms. St. James, a white woman from Princeton, and Ella, a precocious 11-year-old Black girl.

It is hard to believe that this is Nkrumah's debut novel. The writing flows smoothly and paints a picture of the rural segregated community of Ricksville, Mississippi. The characters are authentic, and their emotions relatable.

Set in 1982, Ms. St. James rents a house on the same street where Ella lives. This piques people's curiosity since she is the only white person on the street. She has come to Ricksville to do research for her thesis on the civil rights movement. Soon, Ms. St. James befriends Ella who has always felt she was not accepted by others because she has a different daddy than that of her siblings, and she has notably darker skin.

Alternating with the 1982 timeline are flashbacks to Ms. St. James' childhood in the 60s in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was a childhood where racism was acceptable, where it was beaten into her. No matter how much she tries to distance herself from it, it is always lurking in the shadows.

The relationship between Ella and Ms. St. James is extremely complex. There are times that my heart swelled with love that Ella, so starved for attention and love, thought she was getting from Ms. St. James. But at other times, Ella was unknowingly pushing St. James closer and closer to losing control of the façade she lived behind, closer to revealing a secret that she must keep hidden.

The story is uncomfortably raw at times as the atrocities of the Jim Crow South are revisited. A question asked by the author is not only how the civil rights movement changed Black society but also how it changed white society.

There are several well-developed characters throughout the book. Mr. Macabe, who is blind, says he cannot see the color of one's skin. He says that he classifies as good, evil, or somewhere in between. There are characters here that fall into all those categories.

There is a shocking reveal near the end that I should have caught but I was just too absorbed in the story to figure it out.

Thank you to HarperCollins and BookBrowse for the advance copy of the book. These opinions are entirely my own.
Beth Watson

Impressive Debut!
I found myself surprised that this is the author's debut novel. An old story told in a new way that made me care very much for the characters. I love stories that feature a precocious old-soul child, and Ella is one of the best examples in quite a while. I was a young teen in Atlanta during the early 1960s, and the Civil Rights movement made a tremendous impression on me. Wade in the Water took me back there, made me think, and stayed with me long after I turned the last page. Highly recommend!
Susan M. (New Holland, PA)

A thought provoking read
The year is 1982. The place is Ricksville,MS. The KKK is active and this story reflects the racial violence and also the non-acceptance of darker skinned blacks by those who could pass for whites.
Wade In The Water is a thought-provoking story about an unusual friendship between an 11 year black child and a white grad student who rents a house in a poor black neighborhood in order to research racism. Those wishing to read a good history based novel should find this book to be an interesting read.
Mary S. (Edmonds, WA)

A coming of age story but so much more
Wade in the Water is a coming-of-age book but much more. It is about the secrets we keep from others and from ourselves, as well as the values and lens we use to view life that have been inherited from our families, friends and culture. The characters come to life and leave you pondering how we allow ourselves to be blinded by appearances and not see what is truly important. The author's writing is incredibly vibrant and engaging. My favorite character was a blind man and best friend of Ella, who has vision beyond that of sighted people. This is a book with characters who will live on with you long after the last page is read.
Debbie G. (Cottage Grove, WI)

Wade In The Water
I greatly enjoyed this book which is a powerful story about identity, belonging and African heritage. It provides detailed observations about how racism impacts so much more than individual lives. Excellent character development, especially of the eleven year old girl, Ella and her life in rural Mississippi. The alternating chapters between Ella and the character Ms. St. James are extremely effective in adding tension and nuanced layers to the developing story.
Marian Y. (Troutdale, OR)

Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah
Raw and heartbreaking, "Wade in the Water" by Nyani Nkrumah tells the story of an 11-year-old girl in 1980s Mississippi. I found this to be a worthwhile, thought-provoking book. I gained some perspectives I hadn't previously considered about slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and the impact of these eras on individuals in more recent times. I recommend this book to anyone seeking to broaden their understanding of our country's racial history. While the book features a pre-teen protagonist, due to some of the content in the book, I believe it is best suited to an older teen/adult audience with trigger warnings for abuse. "Wade in the Water" could provide a profound and provocative discussion for a book club. I think individuals who appreciate "The Bluest Eye" (Toni Morrison), "Color Purple" (Alice Walker), and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (Maya Angelou) will also appreciate "Wade in the Water."
Mary H. (Phoenix, AZ)

The Good and the Bad of people and everything in between.
Humankind consists of an assortment of people and categories many. The theme derived from this story proves that the important factors to all people is the sense of safety and love. Unconditional love is not easy to find but the young girl Ella believes that God, nature and a very few people can be loved.
The story accurately depicts the levels of maturity needed to understand the complexity of humans and their ability to love. Politics, wealth, heritage and the color of the skin plays a vital part in the beliefs and attitudes of the time of this story, gossip and lies fueled the arguments. Racism within the US continues to undermine the country. The Internet, lies by feeding misinformation fuel our current discontent. Like Ella, we need to keep searching for the truth, keep looking beyond ourselves to understand the depth of humanity.
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