Like many people during the summer of 2020, I found myself searching for works created by black artists; music, films, books, anything I could get my hands on. One such book was Bethany C. Morrow’s YA novel A Song Below Water. The book is a modern fantasy story filled with sirens, gargoyles, and other mythical creatures navigating a world much like our own: rife with racism and sexism. The two main characters are both young Black women; Effie, navigating family struggles while fighting demons from her past, and Tavia, a siren who lives in fear of being discriminated against because of her identity.
Sound familiar? It should. Morrow’s novel detailing the hardships sirens and other creatures face mirrors the experiences Black people have on a day-to-day basis. The book even includes a peaceful protest very similar to the Black Lives Matter protests that, sadly, does not remain peaceful—though by no fault of the protesters. As a White woman myself, who has never gone through something like that, the book put the issue into perspective in a way nothing else could.
The beauty of Morrow’s novel is its capacity for fiction while addressing very real issues. I am someone who adores fantasy novels, so reading this book that was also about race was an accessible way for me to educate myself. History has made it clear that pointing out problems and talking about them is not always the best way to solve them. Only by living through them does one truly see the importance and recognize the need to make a change. Reading a book where I projected myself onto the characters like in A Song Below Water, I made another leap in becoming a better ally. For those of you like me who want to help, don’t forget that reading and educating yourself is an important step towards real change.