Title: The Deep
Author: Rivers Solomon
Page Count: 166 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
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.
“Forgetting was not the same as healing.”
Wow, what a book. I only discovered this one because of clipping.’s song – which you can listen to by clicking here – which I absolutely love, and wanted more of. I read about what inspired the song, and love that this story has been creatively interpreted by so many different people in different ways. Such a cool thing, and I’d definitely recommend listening if you’re into really cool but sort of experimental music!
So, back to the story. I read this one back in February for Black History Month, and while I understand this is fictional and about mermaid people, it still had a lot of really important messages and themes regarding race and the differences between types of people. The narrator gives you a lot of information and sort of throws you into the rich world of the Wajinru, a mermaid-like race that are descended from pregnant slave women thrown overboard while en route to the ship’s destinations. This premise of an entire race and culture being created from the poor women thrown off the ships is so intriguing and incredible to me, and the resilience and uniqueness of these people – especially of Yetu, the memory keeper – was amazing.
When reading, this one reminded me a little of The Giver in terms of a single person in a society being responsible for some secret and incredible knowledge that keeping the rest of the community ignorant to somehow benefits. Here, Yetu is the one who stores the memories of her people’s pasts – of the African mothers that lost their lives, of the whales they lived with and learned from, of the magic and power that created them. She does this so that the rest of her people can live happy, free lives, without the burden of the past’s horrors bogging them down. Much of the story is told from her perspective as their Historian, and we’re able to travel through different points in time to learn how the Wajinru came to be.
I loved the varied chapters, and the way the story seemed to struggle to keep focus on a specific aspect of the narrative by jumping around between past/present. While I can understand how this might be confusing for readers expecting a more linear story line, I thought it was really authentic considering how unstable and torn apart Yetu feels as the Historian responsible for all of her people’s memories. They’re pulling her attention apart very similarly to how the story seems to, which was really fitting for me during the reading experience. I related to Yetu’s confusion and her distraction.
This is a strong story with strong characters, and the representation throughout was wonderful. While the story itself is quick – the book is pretty short at under 200 pages, pushing it more into novella length – the emotional impact I felt when reading and the fact that I still vividly remember the story and characters several weeks later should speak for themselves. Highly recommended!
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