Wade in the Water; Nyani Nkrumah

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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.  

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.

Eleven-year-old Ella lives in the racially divided town of Ricksville, Mississippi, not far from where the Freedom Summer Murders occurred. Too smart for her own good, she loves God, Mr. Macabe, and Nate, the tough owner of the local diner. To her perpetually irritated Ma, and Leroy, her mother's lover, Ella is an unwanted nuisance.

But Ella pays them no mind. She has a precious secret, and she isn't telling.

One day, a sharply dressed, well-to-do white woman appears on Ella's street, looking for the girl. The arrival of Ms. St. James puts the Black side of town on edge. Why is this white woman making friends with a little Black girl? Who is she and what does she want? When Ms. St. James begins tutoring Ella, the bond between these two unlikely friends deepens, and soon Ella is willing to risk anything and everything to keep Ms. St. James in a community itching to see her gone.

Like Ella, Ms. St. James has secrets--knowledge she keeps in a black notebook filled with scribbled pages. Secrets that will ultimately come out with devastating consequences.

Alternately told in Ella and Ms. St. James's captivating voices, and moving back and forth in time from the 1960s to the 1980s, Nyaneba Nkrumah's engrossing coming-of-age story explores the search to define ourselves, free from the tangled web of truths and lies we are told--the lies that we tell ourselves, and the historical facts that are told as fiction.

January 17, 2023

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