Book Beginnings quote:
Friday 56 quote:
Summary: Hiram Walker is born into slavery but his father is the plantation owner and his half-brother, the heir-apparent. Though he dreams of receiving his inheritance, his due as a child of the owner, Hiram knows it will never happen and is even afraid he will sold off just as his mother was sold when he was young. He remembers little of his mother but he does know that she had special powers. But when he nearly drowns in the River Goose, he discovers that he, too, has a special power. Could this power help him, and maybe others, escape? Can he do it on his own or should he get help from Georgie Parks, a freed slave living in Freetown nearby? All of Hiram's decisions have tremendous consequences, some are even life-threatening.
The first quote provides foreshadowing of the near-drowning in the Goose, which is a pivotal point in Hiram's life. I laughed when I read it since it is one gigantic sentence and quite confusing until you read on. Don't judge the book by this sentence. The Friday56 quote occurs just before the aforementioned near-drowning when Hiram visits Georgie in Freetown, attempting to get away from the whites who have been drinking and partying all day, and now have menace on their minds. Doesn't seem like things have changed that much if the current news reports are to be believed.
Review: At the center of this story is the tragedy of slavery and desire of every human being to be free and to be treated with dignity and respect. On the edges of the story is the power of story-telling and how important it is to have a story that gives us a place and a people of our own. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a master storyteller and he brings to life this time period in American history with clear-eyed honesty. He also sprinkles in some magical realism allowing the reader to see and interpret the Underground Railroad with new eyes.
The timeliness of this read is obvious. It is a good reminder that white privilege is still alive and it harms the well-being of those not in the dominant culture. I loved the magical realism and how the story drew of folk tales and the wisdom of elders. I highly recommend it.
Book Club discussion questions:
1. Why do you think Coates uses terms like “Tasked” and “Quality” instead of “slaves” and “masters”? What do you think the novel gains from this altered language?
2. Hiram says that the Tasked are “Blessed, for we do not bear the weight of pretending pure.” How does Coates define morality in the novel?
3. What do you make of Howell Walker’s apology? To what extent does Coates humanize Howell? Why do you think he does this?
4. What roles do the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood play in the novel? How does Hiram define family?
5. Sophia tells Hiram, “But what you must get, is that for me to be yours, I must never be yours.” What is Coates saying about the particular struggles of black women in this novel?
6. Characters like Corrine risk their lives to work for the Underground, while also allowing Hiram and some of its other members to come to harm for the greater good of the organization. What might Coates be trying to say about the relationship between white people and racial justice with these characters?
7. Discuss Harriet’s role in the story. What impact does the inclusion of a historical figure have on the narrative?
8. What is the significance of water throughout the book? Why do you think Coates chooses it as the medium for Hiram’s power?
9. What does THE WATER DANCER add to our understanding of how enslaved people suffered? What does the novel add to our understanding of the agency, resilience and strength of enslaved people during that time?
10. How are the themes of THE WATER DANCER relevant to modern discussions of race, privilege and power?
-Source: Reading Group Guides
|This book just fulfills the requirements for the Big Book Summer Challenge at 403 pages.|