Wade in the Water

Get the paperback edition starting on January 30th!
Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah book cover

Wade in the Water
by Nyani Nkrumah

About Wade in the Water

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, Wade in the Water tells the story of an unforgettable summer in 1982 seen largely through the eyes of Ella, a young, mistreated, black 11 year old girl who lives with Leroy, who hates her, and Ma, who cannot stand to look at her.

Ella’s world is changed when Katherine St. James, a white researcher from Princeton, arrives in their racially divided rural Mississippi town. The town is immediately suspicious -what does Katherine want, and why is she really there?

As tensions mount and rumors swirl, and the tide swings against her, Ella and Katherine are drawn into a complicated friendship that drowns out the outside world…'til it doesn’t, and the relationship grows fraught as Ella unwittingly pushes against Katherine’s carefully constructed boundaries that guard a complicated past, with secrets that could have devastating consequences.

Narrated by Ella and Katherine, this moving coming of age story, replete with heartache and love, truth and lies, cruelty, madness and laughter, is an exquisite and explosive coming of age tale that will keep you spell-bound 'til the very last pages.

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Author Appearances

Upcoming Events

Please check back soon for new events.

Past Events

Oct. 20-22 – Southern Festival of Books, Nashville TN

Sept. 11-16 – Mississippi Book Festival—Statewide Author Tour
Moderator: Lauren Rhoades of Rooted Magazine
Presented by The Friendly City Books Community Connection, a special project of the Create Foundation.

May 20, 2023 Gaithersburg Book Festival, Gaithersburg, MD.
Click here for more information.

March 27, 2023 – Howard County Public Library, Miller Branch, Ellicott City, MD 21042. Click here for more information.

February 23, 2023 – The Writer's Center
Virtual Craft Chat with Novelist Nyani Nkrumah

February 20, 2023 – Brown Girl Collective Book Club
Recordings on Facebook or YouTube

January 23, 2023 – Politics and Prose Bookstore, Northwest Washington, D.C.
Recording on YouTube

January 17, 2023 – NPR (National Public Radio)
The Takeaway with Melissa Harris-Perry, listen here

Selected Reviews

Publishers Weekly


“Nkrumah’s stunning debut revolves around an unlikely friendship between an 11-year-old Black girl and a middle-aged white woman in 1982 Ricksville, Miss., and the segregated town’s fraught history.....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...” (click here for full review)

Leslie R.
Reader from Arlington, VA


“In a small town in rural Mississippi a white Princeton scholar forms a friendship with a precocious pre-teen black girl. I was prepared to not like this book before I read the first page. Having grown up in the South in the late fifties, I lived this era so I am wary of...” (click here for full review)

Diane Mckinney-Whetstone
Author of Our Gen and Tumbling 



“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.”

More Information

Literary Agent
Charlotte Sheedy

Nyani Nkrumah’s WADE IN THE WATER, about the increasingly complex relationship between a mistreated Black girl growing up in the 1980’s rural Mississippi and a mysterious white woman who appears in her racially divided town, exposing the consequences of secrets left untold and the power of the past to dictate the future, to Patrik Henry Bass at Amistad, for publication in January 2023, by Charlotte Sheedy at Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency (NA).

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Book Clubs

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Meet the Author

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About the Author

Nyani Nkrumah was born in Boston and grew up in Ghana, West Africa and later Zimbabwe. Her love of writing comes from her mother, a former English and literature teacher who entertained her kids by reciting poetry and Shakespeare soliloquies on the way to school.

Nyani graduated from Amherst College where she dual majored in Biology and Black Studies. She also has a Masters from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Ph.D from Cornell University.  In her other life, she lives in the Washington DC area with her family and works in international development.

Mississippi River Scene