Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Book Award-winning author of bestselling nonfiction titles Between the World and Me, The Beautiful Struggle, and We Were Eight Years in Power, shares from and discusses his debut novel, The Water Dancer, with fellow writer Renée Watson. The Water Dancer explores the story of Hiram Walker, a gifted young man born into bondage on a plantation in the American South. In this discussion, recorded in front of a live audience in Portland, Oregon, Coates speaks about America’s cultural history and its role in our current sociopolitical climate, as well as his own career and his process of writing this book.
I don’t want to bear witness to art that is solicitous of me. I come to art to see the person express something that’s deep, deep inside and being pulled out and rendered in some kind of beautiful fashion. And so, the first thing I would say [to young, aspiring writers] is write for yourselves.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a distinguished writer in residence at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He is the author of the bestselling books The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between the World And Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015. Ta-Nehisi is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He is also the current author of the Marvel comics The Black Panther and Captain America. The Water Dancer is his first novel.
Renée Watson is the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning author of the novels Piecing Me Together, This Side of Home, What Momma Left Me, Betty Before X, co-written with Ilyasah Shabazz, and two picture books: Harlem’s Little Blackbird and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen. Renée is the founder of I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She lives in New York City.
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