While many are very excited for the live action to come The little mermaid (with singer/actress Halle Bailey) others have misattributed the idea of mermaids (like elves, hobbits, and more) as creatures unique to those of northern European descent. Although Disney has taken elements from Hans Christian Andersen’s story (albeit with less gore) – and that story has roots in Scandinavia – mermaids and other very similar creatures have been around for much longer. And all over the world.
Although this “concern” boils down to people just looking for a reason to thinly veil their racism, many have used this to start a conversation about mermaids as folklore and fables around the world. Almost a year ago, in an article for Goal, one of the authors on this list, Natasha Bowen, wrote about how, although the American understanding of mermaids was shaped by a very Eurocentric view (even before Disney’s takeover), the role of merpeople (especially the oceans) (right down to the Attributes with fish-like characteristics) are found all over the world. Many of the places she cites are direct inspirations for some of the stories that follow.
Simi’s duty is to gather the souls of those who are drowning at sea and to bless their treks back to their homes. But after finding out that a boy thrown overboard is still alive, she breaks that mermaid code and saves his life. This leads to an incantation by the Supreme Creator, where Simi learns that the person she saved is already connected to her world. This historical fantasy by YA (contained in an edition of The Mary Sue Book Club) is the first in a series, with the second book, soul of the deepRelease on September 27th.
About Synrinada, the daughter of a siren and a warlock, this book is a true mermaid adventure. She was not supposed to exist and a dark family line is doing everything in their power to prevent her from continuing. Her longtime friend Malachi helps her process everything, but Synrinada begins to distrust him when she realizes he knows more than he lets on. Adding to that tension is her urge to ignore his advice to keep a low profile. Instead, she wants to learn more about her legacy in an increasingly dangerous world.
The depth by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, and William Hutson
Despite being a physically small book, it is not to be taken lightly as it is one of the heavier books on this list. Written by a trio of authors, The depth follows a mermaid, Yetu, who carries her people’s memories so they can move on. Your people are descended from the pregnant women thrown overboard in the Atlantic during the Atlantic slave trade. Carrying that weight allows their people to live harm-free, but it weighs on Yetu. Light in narrative, this novel is more like a process of feeling all that Yetu is and imagining what could be.
In the introduction to this book, Sheree Renée Thomas writes that this collection of short stories was inspired by Linda D. Addison’s 2005 performance Mami Wata, goddess of clear blue at the World Horror Convention, entitled Hurricane Katrina, and a special exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art Mom Wata. Together with Pan Morrigan and Troy L. Wiggins they created this anthology of speculative fiction connected by water. Spanning Africa, Europe and North America, these stories explore the magic of water and the creatures (including mermaids) that lurk beneath the surface.
After her village is invaded, a young woman is enslaved. On the way to what readers recognize as America, the woman finds some solace when she comforts a younger child on the cargo ship. This small comfort is interrupted when the child who is comforting her tells her that her mother is coming to get everyone on the ship. This YA novella is inspired by real-life Middle Passage history and Yoruba folklore.
Before the siren murder trial that drew national attention, Tavia did her best to hide her siren powers and her best friend Effie battled demons at home. But with the aftermath of the trial and Tavia’s slip-up, her home in Portland feels less safe than it did before. (While I understand that sirens aren’t mermaids, this still has an oceanic vibe to it, and mermaids are still an important part of the story. I just can’t put my finger on why spoiler.)
Sometimes just referred to as OdesaMcCoy’s The Perfect Water Book One is the first part of a paranormal fantasy trilogy. The first novel follows a lab technician, Odessa, who, after a night out with her friends, has strange experiences – like waking up with lost body parts. She will soon find out that she is the heiress in a line of mermaid kings and will be called to duty.
We usually stick to YA and adult books for general book lists, but these illustrations (just like Sukey and the Mermaid by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Brian Pinkney) were too compelling not to include. Your stories feature African American stories that mix truth and fiction in a series of fables and fairy tales. The story most relevant to this list is the story of Mary Belle and the Mermaid. A young girl finds solace in friendship with a local mermaid as she escapes her horrible family.
If you love mermaid books, I’d bet you’d be interested in a pirate story too.
Check out this list of pirate books here!
(Selected image: Simon & Schuster)
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