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“Spellbinding...A captivating debut.” — Harper’s Bazaar ​ ​ ​In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and feminine strength in antebellum America. Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Or “Spellbinding...A captivating debut.” — Harper’s Bazaar ​ ​ ​In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and feminine strength in antebellum America. Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Orïsha—a deity in the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people—cast into mid-1800s America. We meet Yemaya as a young woman, still in the care of her mother and not yet fully aware of the spectacular power she possesses to protect herself and those she holds dear. The journey laid out in Shallow Waters sees Yemaya confront the greatest evils of this era; transcend time and place in search of Obatala, a man who sacrifices his own freedom for the chance at hers; and grow into the powerful woman she was destined to become. We travel alongside Yemaya from her native Africa and on to the “New World,” with vivid pictures of life for those left on the outskirts of power in the nascent Americas. Yemaya realizes the fighter within, travels the Underground Railroad in search of the mysterious stranger Obatala, and crosses paths with icons of our history on the road to freedom. Shallow Waters is a nourishing work of ritual storytelling from promising debut author Anita Kopacz.


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“Spellbinding...A captivating debut.” — Harper’s Bazaar ​ ​ ​In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and feminine strength in antebellum America. Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Or “Spellbinding...A captivating debut.” — Harper’s Bazaar ​ ​ ​In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and feminine strength in antebellum America. Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Orïsha—a deity in the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people—cast into mid-1800s America. We meet Yemaya as a young woman, still in the care of her mother and not yet fully aware of the spectacular power she possesses to protect herself and those she holds dear. The journey laid out in Shallow Waters sees Yemaya confront the greatest evils of this era; transcend time and place in search of Obatala, a man who sacrifices his own freedom for the chance at hers; and grow into the powerful woman she was destined to become. We travel alongside Yemaya from her native Africa and on to the “New World,” with vivid pictures of life for those left on the outskirts of power in the nascent Americas. Yemaya realizes the fighter within, travels the Underground Railroad in search of the mysterious stranger Obatala, and crosses paths with icons of our history on the road to freedom. Shallow Waters is a nourishing work of ritual storytelling from promising debut author Anita Kopacz.

30 review for Shallow Waters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Have you ever read a book that defies genres? Shallow Waters is absolutely that for me. It’s a lyrically-written mash-up of mythology, science fiction, historical fiction, with elements of fantasy. About the book: ““Spellbinding...A captivating debut.” — Harper’s Bazaar In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and Have you ever read a book that defies genres? Shallow Waters is absolutely that for me. It’s a lyrically-written mash-up of mythology, science fiction, historical fiction, with elements of fantasy. About the book: ““Spellbinding...A captivating debut.” — Harper’s Bazaar In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and feminine strength in antebellum America.” I had to read Shallow Waters slowly to give time for this world to come together in my mind. I loved the cameos by historical figures like Harriet Tubman and learning more about Yemaya and Yoruba culture. Shallow Waters has a touch of young adult feel in that the writing is approachable and straight forward. I’ll never forget my time with Yemaya and found her story inspiring and full of strength and heart. I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mocha Girl

    In short, this is an imagined story of Yemaya, the water goddess, pursuing the man (Obatala) she loves when he is captured in Africa and brought to America in chains to be sold into slavery. She, too, is captured and the book is essentially her pursuit to reunite with him. In her quest, she matures into womanhood and discovers her powers which are mistakenly referred to as witchcraft by some. Orphaned at a young age, Yemaya is largely clueless about her people, powers, or purpose (beyond searchi In short, this is an imagined story of Yemaya, the water goddess, pursuing the man (Obatala) she loves when he is captured in Africa and brought to America in chains to be sold into slavery. She, too, is captured and the book is essentially her pursuit to reunite with him. In her quest, she matures into womanhood and discovers her powers which are mistakenly referred to as witchcraft by some. Orphaned at a young age, Yemaya is largely clueless about her people, powers, or purpose (beyond searching for Obatala); however, her legendary status precedes her as it seems there is always someone she encounters who knows more about her than she does. During her journey North to freedom via the Underground Railroad, she meets several note-worthy historical figures - a woman named Moses (Harriet Tubman), a runaway slave named Frederick (Douglas), etc. but these encounters were too brief and added very little to the story outside of name-recognition. Perhaps it was just me, but I was expecting much more based on the publisher’s description and recommendation for fans of The Water Dancer. This read like a young adult/middle-grade story where the protagonist seemingly surfs from one scene to the next in a series of neatly threaded coincidences (presented as “destiny” in the novel) leading to a fairly predictable (and protracted) ending. There is little breadth or depth to any of the characters. Granted, the story is notable and educational in that it introduces at a cursory level Yoruba folklore, the Quakers as abolitionists, and African American icons that share a touch of their principles/philosophies, and a key historical event that affected the Cherokee Nation. Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to review this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahtiya (BookinItWithAhtiya)

    Review to come because what the hell even was this? lol but also...yikes

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. When I was first asked to dive into Shallow Waters, I'll admit that I was pretty intrigued after reading the synopsis. I feel like I don't read a lot of books that are set in Africa and I'm pretty sure I've never read about an African goddess either. So, yeah, I was kind of excited to dive into this one. After meeting the characters, I had a feeling that this was one of those books that I needed to devour slowly so that I co I have received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. When I was first asked to dive into Shallow Waters, I'll admit that I was pretty intrigued after reading the synopsis. I feel like I don't read a lot of books that are set in Africa and I'm pretty sure I've never read about an African goddess either. So, yeah, I was kind of excited to dive into this one. After meeting the characters, I had a feeling that this was one of those books that I needed to devour slowly so that I could enjoy the world and the adventure. In it, you will meet Yemaya who is a water goddess. She is on a mission to track Obtala, the man she loves, who was captured in Africa and sold to America for slavery. Along the way, she is captured as well but that doesn't stray her from her mission. She is very determined to get to Obtala and reunite with him. In some ways, I liked Yemaya but she did seem a bit naïve about things that included her own people and culture. At least the younger version of her did and that felt realistic to me. While on this quest of hers, she definitely grows up or matures in her own way. This definitely made her more likable in my eyes because she is understanding everything a bit more clearly and has her eyes open to everything that is happening around her. I also really liked the people she met along her journey of the Underground Railroad. I would pretty much pee in my pants if I met Harriet Tubman and I definitely wanted more chapters of her just interacting with them. Other than that, it was just a very interesting book to dive into. I liked all the different parts that this touched on. The good, the bad, and all the things that hard to read but needed to be said. I just kind of wanted more of some things to make this even better in my eyes. Still, it was a good book and people definitely need to dive into this.

  5. 4 out of 5

    3 no 7

    “Shallow Waters” is an unpretentious account, a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. It is the tale of imaginary beings, but also a story with a complex message. Yemaya is a Mer being, mermaid if you will, and she tells her story in a first person present tense narrative as she journeys through time. It begins as she hatches from a cocoon, shedding her previous form, and becoming a woman. Readers then go back to the beginning of her journey, the encounter that changed the direction of her life “Shallow Waters” is an unpretentious account, a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. It is the tale of imaginary beings, but also a story with a complex message. Yemaya is a Mer being, mermaid if you will, and she tells her story in a first person present tense narrative as she journeys through time. It begins as she hatches from a cocoon, shedding her previous form, and becoming a woman. Readers then go back to the beginning of her journey, the encounter that changed the direction of her life, meeting Obatala. Every story transitions to yet another story. Escape brings danger; danger brings opportunity, and opportunity brings change as Yemaya moves from the peril of pirates in the Caribbean to the trauma that is The South in pre – Civil War United States, and finally on to the promise of freedom in The North. “Shallow Waters” is engaging and thought provoking. It is quick to read and compels one to read it again. I received a review copy of “Shallow Waters” from Anita Kopacz, Atria/Black Privilege Publishing, and Simon & Schuster. Yemaya’s story unfolds with both simplicity and complexity. There are lessons from history that have applications for today. “It’s not always wise to be the largest tree. We must know how to bend and compromise, like the willow, or else we will go down with the storm.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Candice (Blackbiracialandbookish) Hale

    In Anita Kopacz’s debut novel 𝙎𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬 𝙒𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨, the black mermaid/diety Yemaya offers spiritual guidance, strength, and resilience to Black people and their ancestral roots. Kopacz understands the importance of history and the power it brings to readers. In the author’s note, she even explains: “No matter the side of history upon which your ancestors reside, we must all contend with the wounds that still present today.” Therefore, this character, this journey, and this message commands your full a In Anita Kopacz’s debut novel 𝙎𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬 𝙒𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨, the black mermaid/diety Yemaya offers spiritual guidance, strength, and resilience to Black people and their ancestral roots. Kopacz understands the importance of history and the power it brings to readers. In the author’s note, she even explains: “No matter the side of history upon which your ancestors reside, we must all contend with the wounds that still present today.” Therefore, this character, this journey, and this message commands your full attention so you can see the warrior that lives within you. The novel chronicles Yemaya’s journey to find true love and freedom in the New World. However, 𝙎𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬 𝙒𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨 barely made a splash in the sea for me. Not only was the water shallow, but so was the writing. This novel was marketed as an adult historical fiction/fantasy novel, but it read like a middle-grade fiction novel. This line sums up the entire novel: “I left the ocean because I fell in love with a fisherman. He was gentle and strong all at the same time. I followed him to this new world.” His name is Obatala. He saved her. She, now, has to save him. This is the story that unfolds. A black mermaid transforms into human form with magical powers to free herself, Obatala, and the others enslaved in America. Let’s not even get into the disjointedness of the timeline or the lack of character development here. 𝙎𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬 𝙒𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨 is a decent read for middle school students, but I hated it. They might learn something, but I’d recommend them other books to learn about The Underground Railroad or Frederick Douglas because this isn’t it. I’m shocked honestly that this made it out of the writing room. It’s fine to have a seat at the table, but please don’t push anything out to feed our people.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Anita Kopacz's Shallow Waters is built around a striking premise: a young Yemaya (the Yoruba mother/sea god), unaware of her powers, falls in love with an African fisherman and, when he is captured by slavers, follows his boat across the sea to the pre-Civil War U.S., transforms herself into a woman and sets out in search of this man. The book has been compared to The Water Dancer and The Prophets, so I was looking forward to the kind of read that would build a world and let me live in the minds Anita Kopacz's Shallow Waters is built around a striking premise: a young Yemaya (the Yoruba mother/sea god), unaware of her powers, falls in love with an African fisherman and, when he is captured by slavers, follows his boat across the sea to the pre-Civil War U.S., transforms herself into a woman and sets out in search of this man. The book has been compared to The Water Dancer and The Prophets, so I was looking forward to the kind of read that would build a world and let me live in the minds of its characters as they experience that world. As several reviewers have pointed out, however, this title reads like Young Adult literature. It's episodic, and too much of the narrative relies on coincidence. I'm meaning to slam neither young adult literature nor Shallow Waters, but at 224 pages the author doesn't give herself room to flesh out the many situations, settings, and characters she creates. I'd love to see this novel developed into a trilogy, say, that would let readers linger on different stages in the journey Yemaya takes. Bottom line, though: Kopacz wrote the book she wanted to write—not the book I might have wished she'd written. Shallow Waters provides an effective basic introduction to one part of Yoruba beliefs; introduces a number of historical characters, including Harriet Tubman and Ralph Waldo Emerson; depicts the underground railroad; and explores the way U.S. colonialism shaped the lives of those unwillingly brought from Africa and those who were living on this land before the arrival of Europeans. There's much to value here, even if some readers may leave the book wishing for more. I received an electronic review copy of this title from the publisher; the opinions are my own.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Lewis

    Read more about the Africa gods Yemaya and Obtala. Read more about the Africa gods Yemaya and Obtala.

  9. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    I did NOT want this beautifully told story to end!! What a gorgeously moving debut by Anita Kopacz! Part historical fiction and part fantasy, this story is set in Antebellum America featuring Yemaya, a Yoruba deity of the sea and part of African mythology. Yemaya makes a choice to transform herself into a human form and follows Obatala, a slave man she sees as he makes his way by ship to America. Once there she quickly comes to learn about the hatred and racism of American slavery and the horror I did NOT want this beautifully told story to end!! What a gorgeously moving debut by Anita Kopacz! Part historical fiction and part fantasy, this story is set in Antebellum America featuring Yemaya, a Yoruba deity of the sea and part of African mythology. Yemaya makes a choice to transform herself into a human form and follows Obatala, a slave man she sees as he makes his way by ship to America. Once there she quickly comes to learn about the hatred and racism of American slavery and the horrors of the Trail of Tears. I loved that Yemaya was such a strong and resilient woman. She meets and befriends and diverse cast of characters, from escaped slaves, Indigenous tribes, Quakers and other sympathetic white people working to help slaves travel the underground railroad. She also has to fight against men that want to enslave her, others that think she’s a witch and try to kill her. Throughout it all she acts with generosity and kindness, helping those she meets and always trying to make her back to Obatala. I can’t gush about this book enough! HIGHLY recommended for fans of The water dancer, Conjure women or The legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi Excellent on audio read by Michelle Kopacz! Fingers crossed there is more to come by this author soon!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Verónica Fleitas Solich

    I came to this book because as soon as I saw that it was an adaptation of the mythological Yemanja the mother of all the Orishas, I knew I had to read it. It was not everything I expected, it lacked a bit of mysticism and certainly fell short of giving our protagonist the value that she has. I recognized what I knew about her in the offerings and the respect that is had for her, but from my experience with the goddess of the sea, I was left me wanting more of her. The boook certainly lacks fervor w I came to this book because as soon as I saw that it was an adaptation of the mythological Yemanja the mother of all the Orishas, I knew I had to read it. It was not everything I expected, it lacked a bit of mysticism and certainly fell short of giving our protagonist the value that she has. I recognized what I knew about her in the offerings and the respect that is had for her, but from my experience with the goddess of the sea, I was left me wanting more of her. The boook certainly lacks fervor which does not do any favors to the valorization of culture. In any case, it is a start for those who wish to know more about the Orishas.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Noor G.

    I had high hopes for this book after reading the forward at the beginning. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. The book follows a reimagined Yemaya (a major water spirit from the Yoruba religion) living in America during slavery. Reading a bit like a Forrest Gump of sorts—Yemaya comes across various historic figures like Harriet Tubman—I think I would’ve liked the book more had it been longer. It seems the short book style simply approached the horrors of slavery in an amateur manner.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elisa Strickler

    This book uses mythology, historical events, and magic to weave a story of resilience and love. I think young adult readers will be enthralled by the story, and hopefully, use it is a springboard to do their own research to learn more. Thank you to Atria Books and Black Privilege Publishing for sending me an advance reader's edition of this book! This book uses mythology, historical events, and magic to weave a story of resilience and love. I think young adult readers will be enthralled by the story, and hopefully, use it is a springboard to do their own research to learn more. Thank you to Atria Books and Black Privilege Publishing for sending me an advance reader's edition of this book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lena Nash

    Non-BIPOC reviewer here: Anita brings readers a history of the UGRR that is not often showcased. Yemaya's story and presence in the Underground Railroad is extremely important to share with the world. This was a book I finished in one sitting because I was so caught up in it. Non-BIPOC reviewer here: Anita brings readers a history of the UGRR that is not often showcased. Yemaya's story and presence in the Underground Railroad is extremely important to share with the world. This was a book I finished in one sitting because I was so caught up in it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    As someone who is ignorant to Yoruba folklore and deities until this book, I guess the most I can do with this is to thank "Shallow Waters" for kickstarting my journey in learning more about Yemaya. Other than that, this book did not work for me, and I'm going to try my best to explain why: The Writing: So, the writing is, indeed, simple. There's nothing with that, per se, unless the goal was to have this read as a Young Adult or middle-grade novel. Considering this appears to have been marked on As someone who is ignorant to Yoruba folklore and deities until this book, I guess the most I can do with this is to thank "Shallow Waters" for kickstarting my journey in learning more about Yemaya. Other than that, this book did not work for me, and I'm going to try my best to explain why: The Writing: So, the writing is, indeed, simple. There's nothing with that, per se, unless the goal was to have this read as a Young Adult or middle-grade novel. Considering this appears to have been marked on Goodreads as just about everything but YA or middle-grade, I admit that I'm a bit skeptical. The simpleness of the writing did lend for a quicker read, though, as well as its short length. Unfortunately, the shortness of the book leads me into my next problem: Characterization: For lack of a better word, every single character in this book is shallow. There's no depth to any of them, not even our main protagonist. I think I understand what the author was attempting with this, making Yemaya a physical manifestation of the water goddess and how most everyone she comes to meet -- her people, mostly -- have already heard of her or know who she is, whether it's because her face is plastered on wanted posters all over the country, or simply because she's a goddess who they look to for guidance and strength and perseverance. That's something that did not work for me, the looking to Yemaya for guidance or strength or perseverance because, since we're stuck in Yemaya's head for the entirety of this short novel, I don't know why anyone would be looking to her for anything. Her sole purpose was essentially just trying to find her Obatala, and there was a point in the story where she seemed to forget that briefly, but once she's reminded of her alleged love, that's all she's focused on and I just don't understand why she loves him or why he loves her because none of it is really said. We're just supposed to read between the lines, I guess, read into their so-called "moments" in the beginning of the book when they see each other for the first time and he's originally captured and put on a slave ship bound for the New World that is the United States. I wasn't convinced that they love each other. We're just told over and over again that they do, but not really shown. Another thing I didn't really like was the character of Phineas. While I know that white plantation owners were just as bad, oftentimes worse, as Phineas, his villainy came across almost... cartoonish? All of his dialogue felt... I don't know how to explain it, but it felt kind of forced. Over the top. Slightly unbelievable. The Pacing: The first few chapters were paced nicely, but as you continue reading, it starts picking up at breakneck speed and you're not able to get to know any of the characters that Yemaya meets on her journey. There are a handful of characters Yemaya runs into more than once throughout the story, but a majority of the characters are just one-offs who are there one second, gone the next. The Ending: If that wasn't the most predictable of endings in a story, I don't what is. To me, the ending just felt like a complete waste of time. I was hoping that I would like this more than I did, because it definitely sounds like an important story to be shared with the world, but it was just executed poorly, in my opinion. I believe it could have done with some more fleshing out of the characters, as well as a better build-up of the relationship between Yemaya and Obatala, because we're not told anything about who Obatala is at all, so their "love story" comes across flat. Again, I will thank "Shallow Waters" for kickstarting my interest in reading more not just about Yemaya and Obatala, but of Yoruba folklore in general because I am always interested in learning about new things and seeing how the story of Yemaya and Obatala change between Africa (Nigeria) and South America (Brazil) is fascinating to me. I also thank Edelweiss for providing me this arc to read in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gina Fucci

    Such an amazing story! Did not want to put it down! A combination of cultures and myth that is simply wonderful. It is definitely a heavy subject but one that absolutely needed to be told and was done so beautifully.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dinah Moore

    an Orisha. a Yoruba deity. goddess of the sea. an African mermaid. Yemaya’s fate has been captured and enslaved. Obatala, fisherman, Yemaya’s destiny—victim of the TransAtlantic trade. On her journey to free him, Yemaya contributes to the success of The Underground Railroad and meets Frederick Douglass , Harriet Tubman, and Ralph Waldo Ellison. This book has a perfect pace, an original concept , and is engaging and thoughtful. I highly recommend for about 12+ . . . . . #shallowwaters #anitakopacz #atriabooks an Orisha. a Yoruba deity. goddess of the sea. an African mermaid. Yemaya’s fate has been captured and enslaved. Obatala, fisherman, Yemaya’s destiny—victim of the TransAtlantic trade. On her journey to free him, Yemaya contributes to the success of The Underground Railroad and meets Frederick Douglass , Harriet Tubman, and Ralph Waldo Ellison. This book has a perfect pace, an original concept , and is engaging and thoughtful. I highly recommend for about 12+ . . . . . #shallowwaters #anitakopacz #atriabooks #atria #blackprivilegepublishing #teachbetterbooks #iloveya #yabooks #amplifymelanatedvoices #readdiversebooks #diversespines #readmorebooks #yemaya

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leighton

    Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! First off, when I read the description for this book, I added it to my TBR list right away. I was planning on purchasing this book even if I didn't get approved to review it on NetGalley. Thank you again to the publisher for this opportunity! Shallow Waters by Anita Kopacz is a historical fantasy based on African myths and antebellum America. The story revolves around Yemaya, a Yoruba goddess who travels from Afr Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! First off, when I read the description for this book, I added it to my TBR list right away. I was planning on purchasing this book even if I didn't get approved to review it on NetGalley. Thank you again to the publisher for this opportunity! Shallow Waters by Anita Kopacz is a historical fantasy based on African myths and antebellum America. The story revolves around Yemaya, a Yoruba goddess who travels from Africa to the mid-1800's America in search of a man. Along the way, she meets historical figures. Based on the description, this book sounded like the perfect blend of history and fantasy. In addition, I think it's so important to support #ownvoices black authors, especially during this time. A lot of books in both the history and fantasy genres focus on white people, and there really aren't enough books that feature People of Color written by authors of color. Here is an excerpt from the description of the book: "Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Orïsha—a deity in the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people—cast into mid-1800s America. We meet Yemaya as a young woman, still in the care of her mother and not yet fully aware of the spectacular power she possesses to protect herself and those she holds dear. The journey laid out in Shallow Waters sees Yemaya confront the greatest evils of this era; transcend time and place in search of Obatala, a man who sacrifices his own freedom for the chance at hers; and grow into the powerful woman she was destined to become. We travel alongside Yemaya from her native Africa and on to the “New World"... Yemaya realizes the fighter within, travels the Underground Railroad in search of the mysterious stranger Obatala, and crosses paths with icons of our history on the road to freedom." Unfortunately, this book turned out to have a better concept than execution. In my opinion, the description of the book was much better than any quotes I could find in the actual book. Yemaya is an African goddess but I didn't see her use any exciting magical powers. She travels through exotic settings but I didn't get much world-building or descriptions of those locales. She meets historical figures along the way, but I didn't recognize any. It wasn't until I went back to the timeline at the beginning of the book that I realized the character of "Moses" was actually Harriet Tubman! Overall, Shallow Waters is a book that is less interesting than its synopsis. It's possible that I just didn't understand it, which is why I am giving it the benefit of the doubt and giving it 3 stars. If you're a fan of historical fantasy or #ownvoices books by black authors, you can check out this book when it comes out in August!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    "You are Yemaya, the Goddess of the Sea." I love books that incorporate elements of fantasy, mythology, or magical realism to breathe new life into old stories or to retell historical events from a new perspective. So I was instantly sold on the premise of Shallow Waters, which tells the story of Yemaya, an African goddess, who traverses the Underground Railroad in pursuit of a man who once protected her from being captured as a slave. "Our best bet during those times of doubt is to rely upon fait "You are Yemaya, the Goddess of the Sea." I love books that incorporate elements of fantasy, mythology, or magical realism to breathe new life into old stories or to retell historical events from a new perspective. So I was instantly sold on the premise of Shallow Waters, which tells the story of Yemaya, an African goddess, who traverses the Underground Railroad in pursuit of a man who once protected her from being captured as a slave. "Our best bet during those times of doubt is to rely upon faith. Faith that one day we will see the light again." But, as excited as I was about Shallow Waters, I found myself wanting more from the story at every turn. At just over 200 pages, it's more of a short story than a novel, and the brief length didn't leave room for sufficient explanations, character development, cultural background, or world-building. Much of the book felt a little one-dimensional, rushed, and incomplete, almost as though important sections were missing. "We are in this together, united by the knowledge that we need one another to survive." Because of the lack of depth, paired with a very simplistic writing style, this book feels much more like something intended for middle-grade or young-adult readers. It isn't a bad story at all; in fact, I loved everything about the premise and the intent of it! I just wish there had been more, to really immerse myself in the African legends, the various cultures introduced, and the different settings explored. "Your presence has renewed our faith and made us understand that no one can rob us of our roots." Even though it left me wanting more, I'm impressed with what Anita Kopacz has done here, shining a fresh light on the horrors of slavery and racism, while also acknowledging the historical oppression of women and Native communities, through the lens of magical realism. This is a moving story of resilience, bravery, hope, and love in the face of terrible circumstances. A worthwhile read! "When I’m older, I promise you that I’ll change things for Negroes, Natives, and women. People always think I’m silly for thinking this way, but we’re all in chains. I want to be free, too." —— A huge thank you to Anita Kopacz, Atria Books, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! —— Follow @letteredlibrary on Instagram!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I was provided an ARC via Edelweiss+, all opinions are my own. I love retellings and stories based on myth and folklore. This is is based on Yemaya, who is a Nigeria deity of the Ocean, and like many tales of gods and goddesses her tales were passed down via word of mouth so they are all a bit different. I've read several other stories where Yemaya was present but she is always associated with water and the sea. Kopacz's tale is no different, but this version of Yemaya spends much of her time on I was provided an ARC via Edelweiss+, all opinions are my own. I love retellings and stories based on myth and folklore. This is is based on Yemaya, who is a Nigeria deity of the Ocean, and like many tales of gods and goddesses her tales were passed down via word of mouth so they are all a bit different. I've read several other stories where Yemaya was present but she is always associated with water and the sea. Kopacz's tale is no different, but this version of Yemaya spends much of her time on dry land during a very real time in history discovering her powers and trying to protect those around her. While I enjoyed this I felt it was a bit underdeveloped. I felt there were far to many coincidences that led to Yemaya ending up where she needed to be at the right time with all of the right people to help her. I also felt that the character development could have been a tad stronger. If you read the author's note this is supposed to be a story of healing, so perhaps that is by design. I think I was expecting something more along the lines of Kindred or Beloved, and this is significantly lighter. While Yemaya is a goddess with power, she uses her power for healing not for violence and retribution. The author's note explains exactly what you are getting in this book, so I should have checked my expectations at page 1. She wrote exactly the story she wanted to tell, and I commend her for that. I do feel that the author did a wonderful job with historical aspect of this book by bringing real people and events into the story. I did a little bit of reading about Yemaya and the lore associated with her, and several things that were mentioned or that happened in the story make a lot more sense. For example, there was a heightened importance given to the pregnant women present and watermelon. Yemaya is not only goddess of the sea, but associated with children and pregnant women and watermelon was mentioned as a common offering in ceremonies associated with Yemaya.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Kopacz’s book Shallow Waters is one that needs to be included alongside Butler’s Kindred. Shallow Waters weaves together Yoruba deities, Native American tribes, and the Underground Railroad into a seamless and beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, novel. This book is perfect for middle school and high school students. As a former teacher, I see a lot of potential with this novel: you could be studying religion (Yoruba, Native American, Quaker), or history (slave trade, Trail of Tears, the Undergro Kopacz’s book Shallow Waters is one that needs to be included alongside Butler’s Kindred. Shallow Waters weaves together Yoruba deities, Native American tribes, and the Underground Railroad into a seamless and beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, novel. This book is perfect for middle school and high school students. As a former teacher, I see a lot of potential with this novel: you could be studying religion (Yoruba, Native American, Quaker), or history (slave trade, Trail of Tears, the Underground Railroad), or philosophy and transcendentalism (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman). The possibilities are endless. Kopacz gives a brief nod to many different religions, peoples, and events throughout her novel. It is by no means an exhaustive book with many details, but enough to encourage you to learn more. The story follows Yemaya, a young merwoman who lives off the coast of Africa. She falls in love with a local fisherman, Obtala, and when slavers come to pirate away Obtala’s people, Yemaya follows the slave ships. She arrives in America and transforms into human form. She journeys across many states to find her true love, encounters many notable people, and learns to embrace her goddess self. As I mentioned above, this is a great YA book. The pacing is quick, the language easy to understand, and the characters present a historic snapshot of the times. I do wish that there was more to the ending of the book—perhaps a bit more about Yemaya coming into her powers, but I don’t think Yemaya’s goddess status is Kopacz’s focus. I love that this book paints a mural of strong BIPOC women. While reading this, I couldn’t help but think how many young girls will love reading about a strong African merwoman-goddess who looks like them or about the young and feisty Native American girl. I enjoyed that there’s a bit of magic in here and that the romance is tactful. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with an ARC!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia-Marah

    I received an advanced reader’s copy of Shallow Waters by Anita Kopacz from Black Privilege Publishing, an imprint of Atria/Simon and Schuster, after winning a Goodreads giveaway. When I read the description of this novel, it immediately intrigued me. In this historical fantasy Yemaya, an Orisha water deity from the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people, finds herself thrust into mid-1800s America before the civil war. Yamaya is a Black mermaid who’s parents have died. She is alone in the sea and d I received an advanced reader’s copy of Shallow Waters by Anita Kopacz from Black Privilege Publishing, an imprint of Atria/Simon and Schuster, after winning a Goodreads giveaway. When I read the description of this novel, it immediately intrigued me. In this historical fantasy Yemaya, an Orisha water deity from the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people, finds herself thrust into mid-1800s America before the civil war. Yamaya is a Black mermaid who’s parents have died. She is alone in the sea and doesn’t yet comprehend who and what she is. Yemaya follows a fisherman, Obatala, she has fallen in love with in Africa, across the Atlantic on a slave ship, when slave traders abduct his tribe. When Yemaya reaches the New World, she is confronted with the ugly realities of slavery, while struggling to find Obatala. Yemaya finds her inner strength while traveling the Underground Railroad, where she meets historical icons of the abolitionist movement. I don’t want to say too much about Shallow Waters, because I would hate to spoil the plot for interested readers. What I can say is that through Yemaya’s eyes we see the horror of both slavery and the annihilation and relocation of native populations in North America. The disbelief she experiences when she first comes to understand what the white man is doing to her people and the native people of the America’s is palpable. But she encounters kind white people too. People who are dedicated to helping runaway slaves find freedom in the North. I found many of the characters Yemaya encountered on her journey intriguing and wanted more of their stories. My central criticism of this novel is that the pacing felt a little rushed; I wanted more. I feel like Kopacz touched the surface of these characters. I would have liked for Yemaya to spend more time with the groups of people who helped her along the journey, diving deeper into their experiences and the place in history they occupy. I suspect the brevity may have been a stylistic choice. I have noticed stories inspired by folklore and mythology often have an intentional brevity and simplicity. Perhaps this was the case with Yemaya’s journey. I found this novel enjoyable and interesting. If I piqued your interest, you can pre-order a copy online, or purchase from your local bookseller on August 3rd.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kat Nakaji

    Anita Kopacz's Shallow Waters combines myth, magical realism, and historical fiction into a tale about a lost god looking to find her love after he is abducted and enslaved in the transatlantic slave trade. The book follows the main character, Yamaya, through the horrors of the American slave trade during the mid-1800s as she searches for her love, Obalata. Anita Kopacz's Shallow Waters combines myth, magical realism, and historical fiction into a tale about a lost god looking to find her love a Anita Kopacz's Shallow Waters combines myth, magical realism, and historical fiction into a tale about a lost god looking to find her love after he is abducted and enslaved in the transatlantic slave trade. The book follows the main character, Yamaya, through the horrors of the American slave trade during the mid-1800s as she searches for her love, Obalata. Anita Kopacz's Shallow Waters combines myth, magical realism, and historical fiction into a tale about a lost god looking to find her love after he is abducted and enslaved in the transatlantic slave trade. The book follows the main character, Yamaya, through the horrors of the American slave trade during the mid-1800s as she searches for her love, Obalata. Kopacz does a great job of introducing Yamaya and building the world around her. Kopacz honors oral and storytelling traditions, showing how Yamaya's mythology was carried to the Americas through the stories of enslaved Africans. The book does not conform to a historical timeline but brings together many events figures from across the 1800s. It feels like a new American tall tale, where the facts of history are not as important as the story, experiences, and mythology of the hero. A few of these elements meld into the narrative, however many of them felt contrived, the story of Yamaya could have stood on its own without the parade of other historical figures in and out of the story. The book carries the story well enough and was a good casual read. It would appeal to people who are interested in African mythology. Or it would make for an interesting book club book where learning more about the character and historical context is part of the experience. On its own, the book doesn't stand out from similar books.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rae Thompson-Scott

    First of all, This book is categorized as historical fiction and adult fiction but it is fantasy for middle schoolers at best - not even YA fiction. Yemaya herself is depicted as a young girl who has her period for the first time and didn’t even know what it was. How is this an adult fiction novel?? I’m not a fan of romance so the fact that Yemaya is running through the Underground Railroad with Harriet Tubman and chopping it up with Frederick Douglass and all she can talk about is “finding her l First of all, This book is categorized as historical fiction and adult fiction but it is fantasy for middle schoolers at best - not even YA fiction. Yemaya herself is depicted as a young girl who has her period for the first time and didn’t even know what it was. How is this an adult fiction novel?? I’m not a fan of romance so the fact that Yemaya is running through the Underground Railroad with Harriet Tubman and chopping it up with Frederick Douglass and all she can talk about is “finding her love” while slaves are getting whipped and sold was kinda wack in my opinion. It gave some real “where for art thou Romeo” vibes. No Bueno. I also didn’t like that the author used Tubman’s and Douglass’ real name and likeness in this completely fictionalized fantasy. This made it even more cheesy for me. The writing was not bad, and the story wasn’t horrible, but I think I would have like it a lot better if I was 12 years old learning about the Underground Railroad for the first time. I also don’t feel like there was a connection to Yemaya the great Orisha of the Ocean. It felt more like Ariel from the Little Mermaid running thru the Underground Railroad looking for Prince Eric 🥴 Again, it wasn’t horrible but I feel like it was categorized as a historical adult fiction to garner more sales. It’s definitely belong in the kids section which isn’t a bad thing!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    "Shallow Waters" is a historical fiction/fantasy book that takes place in the mid-1800s. The author does a fantastic job merging myth and history, with a beautiful writing style that makes this a easy read. As someone who is not typically into fantasy, but very much into historical fiction, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and found myself binge reading it over a few days. I really enjoyed how the book took us across the ocean in the beginning, and illuminated an import "Shallow Waters" is a historical fiction/fantasy book that takes place in the mid-1800s. The author does a fantastic job merging myth and history, with a beautiful writing style that makes this a easy read. As someone who is not typically into fantasy, but very much into historical fiction, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and found myself binge reading it over a few days. I really enjoyed how the book took us across the ocean in the beginning, and illuminated an important part of the underground railroad. I found the writing style and storytelling very captivating, making it a hard book to put down While a quick read, the book did feel a bit rushed in that there were a lot of historical aspects of the book that were briefly touched upon (i.e. Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass) that I would have loved to have seen developed further. I also found the ending a little rushed. But, overall, an easy whimsical read that I would recommend to other. Thank you to the publishers for an advanced readers edition of the book!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Debra Pawlak

    I received an advance reading copy of this book from NetGalley.com in return for a fair review. This story is based on an African folk tale about a black mermaid named Yemaya and the man she loves, Obatala. I had never heard of this story or of either of these characters, but author Anita Kopacz did a fine job bringing them to life and relating their adventures. When Obatala is taken from his homeland and sold as a slave in America, Yemaya follows him--first as a mermaid and then as a woman. She I received an advance reading copy of this book from NetGalley.com in return for a fair review. This story is based on an African folk tale about a black mermaid named Yemaya and the man she loves, Obatala. I had never heard of this story or of either of these characters, but author Anita Kopacz did a fine job bringing them to life and relating their adventures. When Obatala is taken from his homeland and sold as a slave in America, Yemaya follows him--first as a mermaid and then as a woman. She has magical powers, as well as the ability to heal. She is befriended by kind white people and desperate slaves, who have faith that she can help them. As she travels from state to state with the Underground Railroad, she is focused on finding Obatala. Anita Kopacz is a promising new author and I hope she plans to pen more books. If you have never heard of Yemaya and Obatala, I recommend this one--it is a quick read and well-written. I look forward to hearing more from this author.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Kamauff

    What a powerful book. This is a fairly short book written about Yemaya an African deity and her journey to America during the 1800's to follow and find her love Obatala when they are separated. She learns of different cultures, of slavery, of immense pain, and also of love. Even during these horrible times, she learns that not all are evil, she finds love in the hatred, and hope during despair. I would have easily given this a 5 star, except I felt the ending just dropped. Still a decent ending, What a powerful book. This is a fairly short book written about Yemaya an African deity and her journey to America during the 1800's to follow and find her love Obatala when they are separated. She learns of different cultures, of slavery, of immense pain, and also of love. Even during these horrible times, she learns that not all are evil, she finds love in the hatred, and hope during despair. I would have easily given this a 5 star, except I felt the ending just dropped. Still a decent ending, but I felt I wanted a little more for as engrossed as I was in this it just ended too quickly. Overall, beautifully written! Trigger warnings: slavery, beatings, lashing, drowning, religious rituals Thank you to GoodReads Giveaways, Black Privilege Publishing, and Anita Kopacz for this Advanced Reader's Edition to review, I appreciate this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Non-BIPOC reviewer. Prior to reading this book, I was unfamiliar with the story of Yemaya. Part mythology, part fantasy, and part historical re-imagining, this book presents a unique account of slavery and the underground railroad. Though the context is important for all readers, I was not quite sure who exactly the intended audience was. In some ways the book seemed directed at younger readers, with simple prose and limited description of the more horrific events. But other passages seemed to s Non-BIPOC reviewer. Prior to reading this book, I was unfamiliar with the story of Yemaya. Part mythology, part fantasy, and part historical re-imagining, this book presents a unique account of slavery and the underground railroad. Though the context is important for all readers, I was not quite sure who exactly the intended audience was. In some ways the book seemed directed at younger readers, with simple prose and limited description of the more horrific events. But other passages seemed to speak to adult readers. Though I greatly appreciate the author's goals and intentions with this work, and I enjoyed the brief journey, in some ways I felt like I was only getting a shallow view of Yemaya, and the author's, full potential.

  28. 4 out of 5

    ♡Ellie

    After I finished this book, it took me a moment to really take in what I had just read. A novel filled with heartbreak, and yet a form of reality that read like non fiction in a way that caused a lump in my throat and I couldn’t help but cry. This emotional novel, about the beautiful Mermaid Goddess Yemaya opened my eyes to HER beautiful story. A story about love, a story about fighting for freedom, and a story of many beautiful characters, who are so important and essential in this story. I felt After I finished this book, it took me a moment to really take in what I had just read. A novel filled with heartbreak, and yet a form of reality that read like non fiction in a way that caused a lump in my throat and I couldn’t help but cry. This emotional novel, about the beautiful Mermaid Goddess Yemaya opened my eyes to HER beautiful story. A story about love, a story about fighting for freedom, and a story of many beautiful characters, who are so important and essential in this story. I felt like it may have been s bit of a short read, I know I definitely wanted to know more. But they say, the best books are those that keep you wanting more. I recommend it to all readers, those who love a touch of fantasy, and magical realism, with some historical elements within.

  29. 5 out of 5

    The Meadows Review

    I was highly anticipating this book. This story of Yemaya, the African Orisha of bodies of water, was a good read. I enjoyed the connections to other Orishas and various famous leaders of that time. It is a great introduction for novices of traditional African religions with a great storyline. I read like a young adult novel although it's not in that category. I would definitely recommend this book to people who like a good origin story. Thank you to Atria for allowing me the opportunity to revi I was highly anticipating this book. This story of Yemaya, the African Orisha of bodies of water, was a good read. I enjoyed the connections to other Orishas and various famous leaders of that time. It is a great introduction for novices of traditional African religions with a great storyline. I read like a young adult novel although it's not in that category. I would definitely recommend this book to people who like a good origin story. Thank you to Atria for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. I love what you put out!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Dauer-Creek

    A magical story that initiates the reader in one Yoruba Orisha (deity) Yemaya as well as refamiliarizes the stories of the Middle Passage, Underground Railroad and other events/circumstances facing African/black people in the mid 1800's in southern North America. It also serves as a harrowing but fulfilling love story. Through the ups and downs you are carried with Yemaya on her journey of love, betrayal and ultimately self-discovery. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, though I wish there had been A magical story that initiates the reader in one Yoruba Orisha (deity) Yemaya as well as refamiliarizes the stories of the Middle Passage, Underground Railroad and other events/circumstances facing African/black people in the mid 1800's in southern North America. It also serves as a harrowing but fulfilling love story. Through the ups and downs you are carried with Yemaya on her journey of love, betrayal and ultimately self-discovery. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, though I wish there had been a bit more to her story at the end. I would also recommend this as a good young adult book (though I am far from that).

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