Tuesday, 14 January 2020
Yetu is the Historian of the wajinru, sea dwelling descendants of pregnant slave women cast overboard. The memories of the ancestors overwhelm and pain Yetu, so they conceive a plan to leave the memories behind.
The Afterward mentions that the idea behind the wajinru comes from the mythology written by the music group Drexciya (James Stinson and Gerald Donald). Another music group, Clipping (rapper Daveed Diggs and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes) wrote the song “The Deep” (nominated for a Hugo award in 2018) based on that mythology. The narrative of Basha, one of the ancestors whose story is told in this novella, incorporates the war with the two-legs that “The Deep” speaks of.
The mythology of the story is strangely poetic as it takes something horrifying and turns it into something beautiful. And while the story is fairly short, there’s a lot to take in. There’s a real weight to it, a depth that makes the underwater world feel real and lived in.
The idea of a singular memory keeper reminded me of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, but I much preferred the ultimate solution the protagonist comes up with here for how to deal with memories as a population that wishes to forget the past while having it accessible, without having a singular member of the group subsumed by those memories. I appreciated that Yetu had anxiety and this caused the memories to weigh on them even more than on past historians.
It’s a sad, touching, and ultimately hopeful story that’s definitely worth the read.