Conversations, VOLUME 12

Ta-Nehisi Coates – Water Dancer – NPR Interview

Ta-Nehisi Coates InterviewOne of the best new book releases of this week is:

The Water Dancer:
A Novel

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hardback: One World, 2019
Buy Now: 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates read one biography of Harriet Tubman in which the biographer admitted that historians aren’t quite sure how she managed to lead so many people to freedom. “Whenever I hear, ‘We don’t know how this happens,’ my mind starts turning, you know? I start imagining things,” he says.

Coates had always been a fan of comic books and pulpy adventure stories, and he began to imagine the Underground Railroad through fantastical eyes. His debut novel, The Water Dancer, is set in slave times and centers on Hiram, a man born into slavery who meets Tubman, and learns that they share a magical power to teleport enslaved people to freedom.

“I did a considerable amount of research, and when you look at how African Americans described themselves during that period, and when you look at how they talk about their own escapes from slavery, magic is often very much a part [of it],” he says. “The Water Dancer … tries to take a somewhat forgotten tradition in African American resistance and render it seriously.”

Listen to an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates
from NPR’s Fresh Air:



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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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