Ta-Nehisi Coates On His Debut Novel : 1A "When the hero is always white, there are subtle messages sent out to the culture. I wanted a hero who was black ... I just felt like it was our time," author Ta-Nehisi Coates told us.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates On His Debut Novel

Ta-Nehisi Coates On His Debut Novel

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Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Washington, DC. The subcommittee debated the H.R. 40 bill, which proposes a commission be formed to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans. ZACH GIBSON/GETTY IMAGES hide caption

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ZACH GIBSON/GETTY IMAGES

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Washington, DC. The subcommittee debated the H.R. 40 bill, which proposes a commission be formed to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans.

ZACH GIBSON/GETTY IMAGES

Remembering the past helps build a better future. Why, then, is it so difficult to recall those memories when the time is right? And is it possible to move forward without looking back?

Those questions guide the characters in The Water Dancer, the new novel by prolific author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Coates rose to prominence for his non-fiction work, which focuses on politics and race. His other works include Between the World and Me, We Were Eight Years in Power and Black Panther. But his latest book is a surrealist novel about a slave born on a Virginia plantation who escapes bondage, and then uses the power of memory to help others do the same.

We spoke with Coates about his new book.

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