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When Oprah announced The Water Dancer as her Book Club pick, she explained that “through the world of magical realism, the book allows us to experience what it felt like to be enslaved.” We couldn’t agree more: Every era has its essential truth tellers and we’re lucky to live in the time of Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has an unparalleled gift for illuminating the shame of racism in America. With his stunning first novel, Coates displays the same gift of storytelling he has brought to nonfiction. (The impactful Between the World and Me won the 2015 National Book Award.) The Water Dancer follows Hiram Walker, an enslaved man in Virginia who is both scrutinized and celebrated for his intellect. When Hiram is captured during an escape attempt, he discovers an unexpected kind of freedom. As always, Coates is fluent in the devastating poetry of unspeakable loss, but he invests Walker’s journey with moments of wonder and possibility. This sweeping epic is a story of nearly unfathomable brutality that’s seeded with hope—and even joy.

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