The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society—and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’ rap group Clipping.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.
I learnt about this novella from the Narrative of Neurodiversity Network, and have one of Rivers Solomon’s other novella’s, An Unkindness of Ghosts, on my TBR pile. The Deep draws on the terrible history of the Middle Passage, during which sick and pregnant people were thrown overboard as too much hassle. The ‘what if’ question of what if the babies born to their dead parent were able to breath underwater and survived.
The Historian holds the memories of the people, but for Yetu it is a painful position to hold every touch, every movement of the water, every memory is real. Getting lost in the pain at the wrong time almost kills her. In her pain and anger she shares the memories with all of her people and runs away.
Oh, it’s so beautiful! I found Yetu so relatable. The sensory perception of everything, of feeling overwhelmed by life, is familiar. Also, the way water feels and the pressure of the sea is familiar, I feel like that in the pool, and in the sea when I get a chance to swim in the sea. I love the love story between Oori and Yetu, it was so gentle and powerful. I totally understand the hesitancy and shyness. It’s a powerful story of history, memory and love for family and friends.
Totally in love with this novella, highly recommended.