Resonant with the emotional urgency of Alice Walker’s classic Meridian and the poignant charm of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, a gripping debut novel of female power and vulnerability, race, and class that explores the unlikely friendship between a precocious black girl and a mysterious white woman in a small Mississippi town in the early 1980s.
Please help us welcome Nyani Nkrumah and her novel Wade in the Water. Tuesday, September 12th at 5:30 PM at Off Square Books. Nyani will be in conversation with Lauren Rhoades.
About the Book
Set in 1982, in rural, racially divided Ricksville, Mississippi Wade in the Water tells the story of Ella, a black, unloved, precocious eleven-year-old, and Ms. St. James, a mysterious white woman from Princeton who appears in Ella’s community to carry out some research. Soon, Ms. St. James befriends Ella, who is willing to risk everything to keep her new friend in a town that does not want her there. The relationship between Ella and Ms. St. James, at times loving and funny and other times tense and cautious, becomes more fraught and complex as Ella unwittingly pushes at Ms. St. James’s carefully constructed boundaries that guard a complicated past, and dangerous secrets that could have devastating consequences.
Told in two voices, Ella’s and Ms. St. James’s, and set around richly developed characters, this riveting, page turning coming of age story will keep readers entranced until the last shocking revelation.
About the Author
Nyani Nkrumah was born in Boston and raised in Ghana and Zimbabwe. She developed her love of reading and writing from her mother, who taught English Literature and Language and encouraged her children to recite poems and Shakespeare soliloquies. After graduating from Amherst College with a dual major in Biology and Black Studies, Nkrumah received her master’s at the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. She has lived in the Washington, DC, region for the past twenty years.
About the Host
Lauren Rhoades is a Mississippi transplant who is originally from Denver, Colorado. Since moving to Jackson in 2013, she has served with AmeriCorps, started Mississippi’s first fermentation company, and helmed the Eudora Welty House & Garden. She is now director of grants at the Mississippi Arts Commission and a host of MPB’s The Mississippi Arts Hour. Lauren’s essays have been published in Southwest Review, Phoebe, Salvation South, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the Mississippi University for Women. In 2022, Lauren founded Rooted Magazine, an online publication dedicated to telling unfiltered stories about what it means to call Mississippi home. Lauren’s debut memoir Split the Baby, is forthcoming from Belle Point Press in 2025.
Set in 1982, this immersive début novel is narrated largely by an adolescent girl who lives in an all-Black neighborhood in the fictional town of Ricksville, Mississippi.. . . Nkrumah resists giving her two main characters a predictable relationship, and her story uncloaks heroes in marvellously unexpected places. — The New Yorker
Stunning…The author is supremely gifted at bringing both her characters and their close-knit rural town to life. Readers will eagerly await more from this writer. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The novel works best as a bildungsroman, with Nkrumah elevating a young girl’s struggles with intense colorism, the traumas of abuse and betrayal and her eventual ability to love herself.” — The New York Times Book Review
“An impressive debut. Emotionally honest with lyricism and charm to spare, Nyani Nkrumah’s Wade in the Water depicts in riveting detail a racially charged Mississippi town, the secrets it holds, and the precious heart and soul of a young girl deserving love.”—Diane McKinney-Whetstone, author of Our Gen and Tumbling