Troubled Waters Tackles the Trauma of Racism and Climate Change

Posted May 6, 2024 by Richetta in #ownvoices, Adult Fiction, Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Uncategorized / 0 Comments

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Troubled Waters Tackles the Trauma of Racism and Climate Change

I received this book for free from Hear Our Voices Book Tours & the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Troubled Waters Tackles the Trauma of Racism and Climate ChangeTroubled Waters by Mary Annaïse Heglar
Published by Harper Muse on May 7, 2024
Genres: Fiction / African American & Black / Women, Fiction / Literary, Fiction / Nature & the Environment, Fiction / Southern
Pages: 336
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Hear Our Voices Book Tours & the publisher
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In this intimate portrait of two generations, a granddaughter and a grandmother come to terms with what it means to heal when the world is on your shoulders.

The world is burning, and Corinne will do anything to put out the flames. After her brother died aboard an oil boat on the Mississippi River in 2013, Corrine awakened to the realities of climate change and its perpetrators. Now, a year later, she finds herself trapped in a lonely cycle of mourning both her brother and the very planet she stands on. She’s convinced that in order to save her future, she has to make sure that her brother’s life meant something. But in the act of honoring her brother’s spirit, she resurrects family ghosts she knows little about—ghosts her grandmother Cora knows intimately.

Cora’s ghosts have followed her from her days as a child desegregating schools in 1950s Nashville to her new life as a mother, grandmother, and teacher in Mississippi. As a child of the Civil Rights movement, she’s done her best to keep those specters away from her granddaughter. She faced those demons, she reasons to herself, so that Corinne would never know they existed. Cora knows what it feels like to carry the weight of the world—and that it can crush you.

When Corrine’s plan to stage a dramatic act of resistance peels back the scabs of her family wounds and puts her safety in jeopardy, both grandmother and granddaughter must bring their secrets into the light to find a path to healing and wholeness.

In heartfelt, lyrical prose based on her own family’s history, Mary Annaïse Heglar weaves an unforgettable story of the climate crisis, Black resistance, and the enduring power of love.

Troubled Waters by Mary Annaïse Heglar

Have you ever seen the Mississippi River? It is such a powerful; dominating and natural entity. 

Welcome to my stop on the Troubled Waters by Mary Annaïse Heglar book tour hosted by Hear Our Voices Book Tours.

One of the things I loved about Heglar’s writing is the way she personifies the Mississippi River. In her hands, it is its own, often violent, character in the story. Weaving in and out of the background, it haunts the main character, Corinne. Its power made even more volatile by the climate change that Corinne fears and wants to fight. Katrina comes up the river. The River and its 100-year-floods are encountering subtraction problems that are making them more frequent and deadly. And most concerning to Corinne, corporations are using the river to transport cargo like oil that is damaging the planet and contributing to horrible climate change. A deadly arrangement that leads to the death of her brother.

For the record, I want more stories about Black people and their experiences with climate change. I found Troubled Waters especially interesting because it includes two generations one from the civil rights era and one from the climate change era. Both of them engaged in a fight for their community’s safety and rights.

Civil Rights Generation

Grandma Cora was a child who was used to integrate the schools in Nashville, Tennessee. The term “used’ is important, because honestly it really didn’t hit home to me until reading about her experience that integration wasn’t her choice, but her parents choice. She didn’t wake up as a 5 year old and ask to be a key player in the Civil Rights movement. Her parents made that choice for her. Including her story, her grief and the consequences of that history are powerful.

Most of us have read the Ruby Bridges story, but there are lots of other children who went through the same and often worse (especially without federal protection) during that time period. Heglar crafts a tension between someone who was told she was going to be part of a movement (5-year old Cora) and someone who wants to engage in a movement (Corinne). I actually wish there had been more scenes in the past with Cora as a young adult to balance with Corinne’s story.

Tension Between Generations

I found the tension between Corinne and Cora fraught with powerful emotions. Corinne is a burgeoning activist by choice. She does her research and participates in activities to gather evidence about climate change. She is young and ready to fight back in honor of her brother. Cora is so damaged by her participation in the Civil Rights Movement as a child that she doesn’t even talk about that part of her life. She is doing her best to try and hang on to her family, of which she has already lost a daughter and grandson. Both women are in mourning. But they do not see eye to eye on the way Corinne is approaching climate activism. It is a hurricane of trauma, justice and anxiety.

Descriptive Language & Nature

Heglar does a great job with using beautiful, descriptive language to capture nature and the character’s relationships with nature. She captures the customs and culture of the people she writes about. Both Corinne and Cora find peace in nature. The family garden is a respite from the world where prayer and peace exist amongst the chaos of life.

Troubled Waters is a story about resistance, fear and change. It’s about family and untold stories and quiet ghosts. It’s about pain, grief and healing. This is beautiful Southern story. 

The Power of the Mississippi in Quotes

  1. “They hadn’t told him that the cargo he was carrying up and down the bloodline of the nation would turn the River into a weapon of mass destruction.”
  2. “The 1927 flood— the one that had haunted Corinne since elementary school when she first learned about the hundreds who’d drowned and the horrors of a river unhinged—still held the record for the most destructive river flood in US history.”
  3. “The River seeped into playgrounds and backyards, hushing children at play and neighbors at gossip. Eventually, the water rose so high, the birds were too confused to sing, and the River silenced the sky.”
  4. “She thought about the ones who had jumped to their deaths in these waters in a radical declaration of selfhood. Each plunge a revolution.”
Troubled Waters by Mary Annaïse Heglar

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