The Deep by Rivers Solomon, With Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
Yetu is the Historian for her people. She is the only one of the mermaid-like Wajinru, descendants of African slave women thrown overboard, who remembers how they came to exist or knows any part of their long history. Because of a choice made by the ancestors, only a single Wajinru can carry the burden of their collective memories at a time. Others lead carefree lives, unburdened by the dark story of their people, while Yetu, a young woman, must bear the weight of their past alone. It was a role she never wanted.
Though Yetu is respected and worshipped for the service she provides, she sees her task as a curse. Due to the enormity of what she carries within her, Yetu’s ability to separate the history from her current reality is deteriorating. As the young Wajinru continues to lose touch with the present world and reality, she realizes that she must escape the grasp of the memories or be destroyed by them.
On the most sacred day of the Wajinru year, Yetu flees. This is the time when Yetu is meant to offer the others just a taste of their history through her gift, protecting them from succumbing to the memories. Instead, she allows the knowledge to trap the other, unprepared Wajinru and escapes, leaving her people at the mercy of unfamiliar emotions and horrifying memories. Yetu leaves the depths to explore the surface waters, and eventually finds herself injured, trapped in a tide pool, and cared for by an unlikely human ally.
Stuck in her pool, Yetu struggles with the choice she has made: her life for the lives of her people. In order for the Wajinru to live, Yetu must return to them. She must take back their history, sacrificing herself for the collective one last time—unless she can find another way to preserve her history, her people, and her own life.
Like Yetu and the Wajinru, the world is currently facing a new challenge. We must work together to keep ourselves, and those we love, safe. This novella is a reminder that no one should have to handle the most difficult parts of life, or, in Yetu’s case the past, alone. The young woman’s story offers an entirely new, historically-based take on traditional mermaids that will appeal to fantasy fans, along with an important message for anyone looking for a unique, thought-provoking escape.
Kelsey Blackburn works at North Park Public Library and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.