• The Good: Black mermaids and collective memory à la The Giver
  • The Bad: Slow plot with little in the way of stakes
  • The Literary: Based on a song by Daveed Diggs’ rap group Clipping

In her role as historian, Yetu holds the honored position of being the living memory of her people. Their collective past is too traumatic for everyone to remember regularly, so Yetu holds the memories for everyone, but the enormity of them is destroying her. During the annual remembering, she flees, escaping her responsibilities and her home.

Did I mention Yetu is a mermaid? In fact, her people are descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave ships. It’s a wholly unique and captivating premise that holds up much of the weight of this atmospheric and conceptual novella. Even better, this story is based on the song “The Deep” created by Clipping for This American Life episode #623 “We Are In The Future”. Why aren’t there more collaborations between the written word and music?

While the novella uses the song’s world, the story expands on the history and folklore of the race as Yetu’s tale unfolds. Unfortunately the chapter jumps are jarring and the POV switches are confusing. When Yetu deserts her people, the stakes are unclear. And Yetu is so introspective with her narration that there is very little sense of forward momentum.

That said, the conclusion wraps it all up nicely. What I love about the ending is a message that we all share the collective burden of past societal traumas. It’s our duty to remember them and learn from our mistakes. We’re here to help alleviate each others’ suffering.

Recommended for fans of Afro-futurism and cross-disciplinary collaborations!