“An impressive debut. Emotionally honest with lyricism and charm to spare, Nyani Nkrumah’s Wade in the Water depicts in riveting detail a racially charged Mississippi town, the secrets it holds, and the precious heart and soul of a young girl deserving love.”—Diane McKinney-Whetstone, author of Our Gen and Tumbling
“Fearless. . . . Vividly bring[s] to life rural 1980s Mississippi.”—People
“A dreamy, brutal, and revelatory reading experience that quickens the pulse and tugs the heart.”—Diane McWhorter, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Carry Me Home
Resonant with the emotional urgency of Alice Walker’s classic Meridian and the poignant charm of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, a gripping debut novel of female power and vulnerability, race, and class that explores the unlikely friendship between a precocious black girl and a mysterious white woman in a small Mississippi town in the early 1980s.
Set in 1982, in rural, racially divided Ricksville, Mississippi Wade in the Water tells the story of Ella, a black, unloved, precocious eleven-year-old, and Ms. St. James, a mysterious white woman from Princeton who appears in Ella’s community to carry out some research. Soon, Ms. St. James befriends Ella, who is willing to risk everything to keep her new friend in a town that does not want her there. The relationship between Ella and Ms. St. James, at times loving and funny and other times tense and cautious, becomes more fraught and complex as Ella unwittingly pushes at Ms. St. James’s carefully constructed boundaries that guard a complicated past, and dangerous secrets that could have devastating consequences.
Told in two voices, Ella’s and Ms. St. James’s, and set around richly developed characters, this riveting, page turning coming of age story will keep readers entranced until the last shocking revelation.
About the Author
Nyani Nkrumah was born in Boston and raised in Ghana and Zimbabwe. She developed her love of reading and writing from her mother, who taught English Literature and Language and encouraged her children to recite poems and Shakespeare soliloquies. After graduating from Amherst College with a dual major in Biology and Black Studies, Nkrumah received her master’s at the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. She has lived in the Washington, DC, region for the past twenty years.
“Set in 1982, this immersive début novel is narrated largely by an adolescent girl who lives in an all-Black neighborhood in the fictional town of Ricksville, Mississippi.. . . Nkrumah resists giving her two main characters a predictable relationship, and her story uncloaks heroes in marvellously unexpected places.” — The New Yorker
“Stunning. . . . The author is supremely gifted at bringing both her characters and their close-knit rural town to life. Readers will eagerly await more from this writer.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“With expert character development, Nkrumah gives memorable voice to a young woman struggling to overcome familial abuse and find her way in the world. For readers who enjoyed Alice Walker’s Meridian and Jas Hammonds’s YA novel We Deserve Monuments.” — Library Journal
Ella’s a ray of sunshine determined to bust through the murkiness that surrounds her, a fighter who clings to God’s promises and refuses to accept she’s invaluable. She is a marvel and an inspiration. — Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“The novel works best as a bildungsroman, with Nkrumah elevating a young girl’s struggles with intense colorism, the traumas of abuse and betrayal and her eventual ability to love herself.” — New York Times Book Review
Vividly bringing to life rural 1980s Mississippi, Nkrumah’s fearless debut unfurls the fraught friendship between an unhappy 11-year-old Black girl and a White researcher studying the effects of the civil rights movement—but hiding a nefarious personal connection. — People
“An impressive debut. Emotionally honest with lyricism and charm to spare, Nyani Nkrumah’s Wade in the Water depicts in riveting detail a racially charged Mississippi town, the secrets it holds, and the precious heart and soul of a young girl deserving love.” — Diane McKinney-Whetstone, author of Our Gen and Tumbling
“Nyani Nkrumah skillfully weaves identity, self-esteem, and courage throughout these pages. A craftswoman of words, Nkrumah has created characters both familiar and unforgettable. And in doing so, she allows the reader to become eleven years old again, slipping back to an era in our divided society and the nuances that still define our lives today.” — Sheila Williams, author of Things Past Telling and The Secret Women
“A dreamy, brutal, and revelatory reading experience that quickens the pulse and tugs the heart.” — Diane McWhorter, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Carry Me Home