Audiobook Review: The Deep

Published November 5th 2019

Author: Rivers Solomon (in collaboration with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes)

Narrator: Daveed Diggs

Audiobook Length: 4 hours 2 minutes

The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society—and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’ rap group Clipping.

Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.

The Deep came on my radar as it looked like an intriguing story about mermaids and it delivered on that front.  The novel is short, but it does have an impact on the reader. The novella has a lot of themes packed in to a small space, so while I enjoyed the story, there were moments where I felt this novella needed to be shorter or longer to either take some pieces away or add some to round out some details. Rivers Solomon put together this story from inspiration of a song The Deep by Clipping. One of the members, Daveed Diggs even narrated the audiobook, which was well-done. The concept is these versions of mermaids, the Wajinru, are the descendants of the children of African slave women who drowned on the ocean crossing and have developed the ability to live underwater.

Yetu is the Historian for the Wajinru where she tells the stories of the past and present. Her people are intersex where they can choose to be female or male and the story does an interesting job of exploring this topic. As Yetu feels overwhelmed by the memories of her people, there is an exploration of forgetting the traumas versus keeping them as memories. I honestly chose this novel as a mermaid read without knowing anything else about the story. As the story goes a lot deeper than I would expect out of a shorter book, it did feel overwhelming at first; however, it does become easier to follow and it was not difficult to integrate into the story.

As this story was brought together through different collaborations, it is interesting how cohesive it felt. There is a lot packed in, so I do maintain the thought that it should either have been longer or shorter. Since there was a lot to enjoy and contemplate, my preference would have been to make it longer as I would like to know more details about some of the minor characters and plots. Traumatic historical events were handled with care in this fictional world, and I loved how it felt accessible to any type of reader. Overall, this was not the story that I expected, but I do love that I took the chance and experienced it.

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