Ta-Nehisi Coates is an American journalist and author. He works as the national correspondent at the Atlantic. In 2015, the author was awarded the National Book Award for Nonfiction for his book Between the World and Me. He also wrote briefly for Marvel Comics, including a Black Panther series in addition to a Captain America series.

His works include We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, The Beautiful Struggle, and Between the World and Me. He is widely known for his writing about a wide range of cultural and political issues, particularly the issues concerning African Americans.


The Water Dancer is the National Award-winning author, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first attempt at writing a fiction novel. The plot of the novel is set in the eighteenth century. The author portrays the era before the start of the Civil War in the eighteenth century. In the novel, Coates has beautifully portrayed the struggle between the white and the black people from that era.

There was no peace in slavery, for every day under the rule of another is a day of war.

The Water Dancer is the story of a young boy named Hiram Walker. Hiram was born as a slave, in the plantations of antebellum Virginia. Hiram was a product of rape, of his white master and his black mother. He was an illegitimate son of a Virginia tobacco baron, Howell Walker. Hiram is gifted with a photographic memory. Sadly, however, he does not remember his mother, who was sold away by his father when Hiram was young.

Hiram also possesses a superhuman ability called ‘Conduction’. It gives him the power to travel across vast distances in a short span of time through water bodies. With this newfound ability, Hiram flees the plantation. His escape from the plantation takes him on a journey toward the North, where he meets the real-life figure, Harriet Tubman. She is known as ‘Moses’ and is herself a ‘Conductor’. Through the guidance of Moses, he comes to realize that by recalling neglected experiences and people, he could fold physical space like fabric. This would, in turn, enable him to instantly travel to distant points.

Hiram finds a ray of hope, however feeble it may seem, to live a life of freedom. He pledges to fight the war between the oppressed, or the enslaved, and the oppressor, or the slavers. He even helps others escape the misery of slavery.

For memory is the chariot, and memory is the way, and memory is the bridge from the curse of slavery to the boon of freedom.

Coates presents an impeccable metaphor by linking the harnessing of the protagonist’s superpower to his memory and emotions. He reminds modern Americans of the perils of slavery, through the eyes of a young slave.

Ameya Rating:

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lyrical prose flows throughout the book. The author has seamlessly infused the themes of magical realism with American history. These are the qualities that make The Water Dancer an exhilarating story of hope and freedom. Even though The Water Dancer is a fiction novel, the author’s depiction of bondage and slavery can easily make the readers uncomfortable – and perhaps that’s what makes this book so real.

…now that you’re here

As you might know, Ameya runs on a purely non-profit basis. With no tangible products on offer, advertisements and donations are our only two sources of keeping this blog up and running. You could convey your support to us with something as little as $5 - that's less than what an average Starbucks would cost!