Would I have liked this more were we not at a point in time where the news is so saturated in Black pain that reading entertainment that centers that just feels like too much? It’s not that I want to turn my back on the Black experience, but I am definitely at the point where I ache for Black joy, where I want to consume media that celebrates Black people, that shows them as a vibrant multitude of unique individuals instead of merely the walking wounded. I don’t want to pretend that Black people don’t feel pain, but is it too much to ask for a book that shows them feeling more than just pain?
I love that The Deep imagines that the children still in the wombs of the African women thrown overboard during the trans-Atlantic slave trade survived and evolved to become the wajinru, a merfolk who built their own underwater civilization based on forgetting the past. Well, except for The Historian, whose role is to remember the past for everyone else, a role that has been twisted through the centuries till the burden falls upon Yetu to uphold an entire people’s memories and history. That is a fucking huge burden to ask of anyone, particularly a sensitive teenager, but it’s hard to feel sorry for Yetu when she spends the entire book feeling sorry for herself. She is a weirdly one-note character who is hard to sympathize with emotionally, even as I sympathize with her intellectually. I was also deeply annoyed by her relationship with her amaba: how on earth does she expect Amaba to understand what she’s going through when the extent of her explanations come in the form of figurative foot-stomping and cries of “You just don’t get it!” Well, yeah, obviously, and she’s not going to get it because she’s not psychic and you’re the one with the repository of eleventy billion skills so you can’t tap into some past orator to help get your point across?
I did like the hopefulness of the ending, even if I was kinda eh on Yetu and Oori’s relationship, which struck me as relying too heavily on tropes despite it opening the way for a frank and welcome conversation on sexuality. This definitely hasn’t been my favorite of the novellas nominated for the Hugo Awards 2020; I enjoyed the clipping. track that inspired this far better.