This is Coates’ first novel, which he began writing a decade ago. It is a chronicle of a slave with an extraordinary memory who joins the Underground Railroad.
Winfrey’s interview with Coates will stream on Apple TV+ when the subscription service launches on November 1, under the title Oprah’s Book Club. New episodes of the show, centered on future club picks, will appear every other month.
Coates gained acclaim and a wide readership as national correspondent for The Atlantic, where the 43-year-old Howard University grad covered issues of race and culture as well as social and political issues. He is also the writer of the latest version of the comic book series Black Panther, and recently revealed that he’ll be writing a new Captain America story. He left The Atlantic in 2018 to continue working on The Water Dancer.
He used his reporting experience while writing the novel, telling The Associated Press: "You have to be there in order to feel it, in a way you can't through books." Coates visited numerous former plantation and documented much of his research process on Instagram.
Coates noted the importance of actually standing on plantations and Civil War battlefields, in particular a trip to tour Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. "The house is beautiful, stunning, gorgeous — and it was enslaved people who built it," he said.
His years of work paid off, with a call from Winfrey about the reboot of her book club.
“It is one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life,” Winfrey said Monday on CBS This Morning. “Right up there in the Top 5.”
"I was enthralled, I was devastated. I felt hope, I felt gratitude, I felt joy — I mean, it's the range of emotions," she added. "That's why I think it has everything that a novel is supposed to [have]. I'm on my second read now, because the first read I was just reading to see if I was going to choose it. And then the second read, I actually am sort of spoon feeding every word to myself."
Winfrey appeared last March at an event teasing the Apple TV+ service, CNBC reported at the time. She highlighted the reach of the platform, which will roll out in more than 100 countries. “They’re in a billion pockets, y’all,” Winfrey said, referencing the amount of Apple devices in the world.
Winfrey's original book club was started in 1996. She has since helped turn dozens of books into best-sellers, from novels by Colson Whitehead and Maeve Binchy, to Sidney Poitier’s memoir. For The Water Dancer and her upcoming choices, Apple has pledged that for each copy purchased through Apple Books, it will make a contribution to the American Library Association to support local libraries.
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