cover image The Deep

The Deep

Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes. Saga, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3986-3

This extraordinary short novel is at least the third creative iteration of a premise built on the documented drowning of pregnant African women by white male slave traders. Imagining that the infants survived as a community of mer-people was the contribution of the techno group Drexciya. In turn, the experimental rap group Clipping (Diggs, Hutson, and Snipes) was inspired to collaboratively develop “The Deep,” a song about conflict between people of the sea and people of the land. Now Solomon (An Unkindness of Ghosts) steps forward with a prose version that is by turns meditative, didactic, and rawly angry. The focus is Yetu, a historian for an undersea community that calls itself wajinru and cultivates collective forgetfulness of its agonizing past, backstopped by the one member who bears the burden of holding the entire community’s memories. It is too much for Yetu, and amid the excruciating annual ritual of sharing out and then taking back the rememberings, she flees her people. Her burden of memory is lifted, but her burden of responsibility has only shifted, as her choice to free herself from her role has devastating consequences. Solomon interrogates the devastations of slavery without ever showing a white perspective, in a tour de force reorientation of the storytelling gaze. This superb, multilayered work will speak to any empathetic reader, and be best appreciated by those steeped in its cultural and artistic context. (Nov.)