by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Caleb Azumah Nelson was our first book club guest with his powerful debut, a visceral and sombre love letter dedicated to London; intimately laced with poetry, music and photography powered by the Black British experience. Rendering two strangers performing ritual truths to each other through their prospective artistic disciplines.
This novel explores what is means to be seen through the eyes of a photographer, delicately portraying how the black experience can penetrate through all synapses in ones existence.
Open Water follows two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it.