A. E. Reads: THE DEEP [Book Review]

THE DEEP is a 2019 novella written by Rivers Solomon and inspired by the song of the same name by clipping., which you can listen to on YouTube for free here.

While searching for books written by black authors with black main characters, I came across THE DEEP. Once I saw the cover, I knew I had to read it.

THE DEEP is black speculative fiction novella that features mermaids called the wajinru, who are born from the bellies of pregnant African slaves thrown overboard slave ships. So it fits right into the genre of black speculative fiction. On this blog I’ve talked about BSF here and here.

This novel tackles a singular question:

What happened to the babies of drowned African slave women?

That is the what if, that is the question that the entire story is built around.

Rivers Solomon’s writing is mystical, haunting and lyrical, just like the song she was inspired by. She uses language in ways that translate exactly how magical yet alien the wajinru society is. I loved it. Reading it felt like exploring underwater.

“We dive down to the deep where the second mother once dragged us. The pressure is immense and it squeezes us. We plunge through the cold, through darkness. The deep will be our sibling, our parent, our relief from endless solitude.”

THE DEEP pg 50

THE DEEP has an interesting genealogy. It starts with Drexciya, a techno-electro duo comprised of James Stinson and Gerald Donald who created the original mythology of pregnant African slaves thrown overbroad slave ships giving birth to aquatic children able to breathe underwater.

After them comes the experimental rap group clipping., who expanded on the undersea myth and developed it further, as the song “The Deep” was commissioned for an episode of the show This American Life.

Then picking up after clipping. is Rivers Solomon’s novella THE DEEP, where we delve fully underneath the waves and live out the mythology created by three separate groups yet is all one.

I hope we get to return to this mythology, have someone else accept the task and create more with it.

I definitely recommend this book, and I also recommend to reread it a few times after. It’s worth it.

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