Trouble the Water moves among finely woven layers of time and place as it takes on a new and controversial theme in contemporary black writing, the search for family reconciliation. Twenty years after running away from home in Pee Dee, North Carolina, Jordan Henry believed he had found success, as a young college professor of history, a married man, and a resident of New England, whose colonial past he knew so well. When Jordan finds his career stymied by local prejudices, his world crumbles. Word of his grandmother's death reaches him, and he returns home to claim the ambiguous legacy of her farmland and face the consequences of his long absence.
Jordan's estranged father also returns to Pee Dee on a quest of his own restoring his good name in a community which blames him for Chloe Henry's death in childbirth. Chloe was Jordan's mother and his grandmother's only child. Unresolved hostility in the family and in the community breaks out, making Jordan the unsuspecting pawn in a plot of revenge against his father. Jordan may be the only one who can free his family from the past and the equally troubled present.
Trouble the Water gains resonance from its unflinching confrontation with dualities common in the Afro-American experience: reality and myth, folklore and sophistication, North and South, rural and cosmopolitan. While sacrificing none of its complexities for the sake of simplicity, it has the relentless movement of a fairy tale that reaches deep into the unconscious roots of behavior. It is intensely lyrical and dense in realism. Trouble the Water is magical in the way it reveals the Afro-American psyche and symbolizes fundamental truths about American life.
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Melvin Dixon (1950-1992), novelist, poet, educator, scholar and translator. Born in Connecticut, Melvin Dixon earned his BA at Wesleyan University (1971) and his MA and PhD at Brown University (1973, 1975). His works include Change of Territory, Vanishing Rooms, Ride Out the Wilderness: Geography and Identity in Afro-American Literature and Love's InstrumentsReview:
"Trouble the Water is a triumph of complexity contained in a simple story." -- Ronald Sukenick
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