“Spellbinding...A captivating debut.” —Harper’s Bazaar
In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and feminine strength in antebellum America.
Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Orïsha—a deity in the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people—cast into mid-1800s America. We meet Yemaya as a young woman, still in the care of her mother and not yet fully aware of the spectacular power she possesses to protect herself and those she holds dear.
The journey laid out in Shallow Waters sees Yemaya confront the greatest evils of this era; transcend time and place in search of Obatala, a man who sacrifices his own freedom for the chance at hers; and grow into the powerful woman she was destined to become. We travel alongside Yemaya from her native Africa and on to the “New World,” with vivid pictures of life for those left on the outskirts of power in the nascent Americas.
Yemaya realizes the fighter within, travels the Underground Railroad in search of the mysterious stranger Obatala, and crosses paths with icons of our history on the road to freedom. Shallow Waters is a nourishing work of ritual storytelling from promising debut author Anita Kopacz.
Kopacz's stirring debut novel (after Finding Your Way: Alphabetical Keys to the Divine) features an Or sha, a Yoruba deity of the sea, who was "ripped from the water" and became a young Black woman engulfed in the violent maelstrom of 1849 America. Yemaya witnesses a tribe of fisherman along with Obatala, the father of all Or shas, being abducted by slave traders, and is "overcome by the sheer terror and hopelessness," before being captured herself. Kopacz then describes the horrors Yemaya witnesses on a series of ships across the Atlantic and along trade routes in the U.S., where her captors eventually place her in a tent somewhere on land. She escapes, and Richard Dillingham, a white Quaker, comes to her aid and tells her about the Underground Railroad. Yemaya then goes on a quest to find Obatala while continuing to navigate a strange world where magic is real (after she breaks her ankle, she heals it by rubbing mucas on it into a cast) and cruelty abounds. All of these events are framed by Yemaya's confusion at her new reality: "What is slavery? Is a Negro another word for an African?" she wonders. It's a riveting and heartbreaking story strengthened by Kopacz's superb ability to create a sense of place. Fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Water Dancer will want to take a look.
I am remembering who I really am
One of the best books I’ve read in a long time!!! So descriptive and captivating, a page turner from beginning to the end!!! Thank you for the escapism!!! I truly fell in love with Yemaya!!!