The Deep by Rivers Solomon
Yetu is the worst historian her people have ever seen. Not that they can remember much, as she holds their memories to them except for the once-a-year Remembrance, when she shares the memories of her people to them. But this year is different. This year, Yetu cannot survive another Remembrance. She won’t. This year, she’s going to give her people their history back.
This was an excellently thought-out novella highlighting one of the darker parts of history—the slave trade.
And the even darker parts of slavery—the shipping of African people to the Americas. When an enslaved person became too “cumbersome,” they were thrown overboard into the Atlantic. The old, infirm, sick and pregnant were cast into the waters to die horrible, drowning deaths, and Solomon has reimagined their deaths into a life, where the children of drowned pregnant women became mermaids.
The history is grim, but the forgetting—and the forcing of memory onto one person who relives that history over and over and over—prevents true healing and overcoming. Instead, the wajinru, the mermaid people of the drowned, live happy lives of oblivion. There’s an analogy there, but I’m too dense to tease it out right now.
I did like Yetu, who was an autistic-seeming mermaid, where she felt everything too much and became overwhelmed and overcome by the memories and the sensations of the ocean. And was also possibly demi-sexual (along with Oori), which was fantastic queer rep!
Anywho, I did like this, but ultimately I wanted more of the relationship with the humans and life on the surface. The story is set 60o years after the start of the slave trade, putting the timeline into our almost future, and apparently there were the Tide Wars (or something like that) fought between surface-dwellers and the wajinru, but this future history was hazy at best.
It’s definitely an interesting read, although I did also want more hints of climate change in this near-future and how it affected the wajinru and their forgetful existence. And how it affected the humans on land (and the constant plastic?).
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
The Deep released 5 Nov 2019 from Saga Press