What if the descendants of pregnant African slave women, thrown overboard for being too burdensome to their kidnappers, become merpeople and developed a new culture and community under the sea? That’s the premise behind Rivers Solomon’s novella, The Deep.
Inspired by a song produced by the rap group, Clipping, The Deep is a powerful and magical story about a young mermaid named Yetu. (Note: The word “mermaid” is never used in the novella.) She is the historian of her people (The Wajinru), a duty that is passed on at the end of the previous historian’s life. It requires her to bear the burden of all of the memories that her community has collected over what might be hundreds of years. Once a year, she is required to impart those memories onto her clan to provide them with a temporary link to their past, but, soon after, she must take those memories back; however, Yetu feels the pain of the past too deeply, and it is killing her. In an impulsive moment, she flees after the yearly ritual, thereby freeing herself from the agony of carrying this knowledge. But, what will that do to The Wajinru as a people? Can they bear this burden? And what will it do to Yetu?
The world building in this story is terrific and well thought out. I definitely felt for the character of Yetu as she struggled with quite literally the burden of history. She was real and spoke to truth. How freeing it would be to be unencumbered by one’s past. Having listened to the audio version, I thought Daveed Diggs did a marvelous job with the narration. My only critique would be in structure and pacing. There were flashbacks that were sometimes confusing, especially towards the end, and it tended to be a little repetitious. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Imaginative and thought provoking, this is an emotional story that seeks to find some hope in a violent and senseless act.
Creative Team: Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes (writers), Daveed Diggs (narrator)
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
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