Open Water

Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Apr. 2021. 160p. ISBN 9780802157942. pap. $16. F
DEBUT In a contemporary south London dance hall, a man looks into a woman’s eyes; in that moment, the pent-up fear and anger that afflict his psyche as a Black man are released. He’s a photographer, she’s a dancer, both are Black Britons who somewhat uncomfortably attended private school on scholarship; in her he senses that he could find a home where he would no longer have to guard his emotions. She would be the steady hand beneath the child’s back as he learns to float in open water. The nameless characters reveal themselves through a shared appreciation for film, literature, and music, as they make the tricky journey from friendship to something deeper. In these safe spaces, they can be vulnerable, ignoring the constant worry that one or the other of them will become the victim of a sudden injustice based on their skin color. But then, in the haven of his barbershop, a violent encounter reinforces his forebodings, causing him to retreat from the optimistic future that she represents.
VERDICT In lovely, rhythmic prose that flows like poetry, photographer and debut novelist Nelson has written a brave and beautiful ode to love, to the importance of self-love, and to the joy of being seen and understood in a world that’s still set on denying Black personhood. An incandescent read that perfectly illuminates this moment in time.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing