Open Water

Current Stock:
UPC: 9780802157942
Gift Wrapping: Gift Wrapping Available
Authors: Caleb Azumah Nelson
Out of stock
  • Publisher : Grove Press, Black Cat (April 13, 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 160 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0802157947
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0802157942

Open Water is tender poetry, a love song to Black art and thought, an exploration of intimacy and vulnerability between two young artists learning to be soft with each other in a world that hardens against Black people.”―Yaa Gyasi, author of HOMEGOING

In a crowded London pub, two young people meet. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists―he a photographer, she a dancer―and both are trying to make their mark in a world that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence, and over the course of a year they find their relationship tested by forces beyond their control.

Narrated with deep intimacy, Open Water is at once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity that asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body; to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength; to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, and blistering emotional intelligence, Caleb Azumah Nelson gives a profoundly sensitive portrait of romantic love in all its feverish waves and comforting beauty.

This is one of the most essential debut novels of recent years, heralding the arrival of a stellar and prodigious young talent.


One of Vulture’s “46 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2021”
One of Paperback Paris' "100 Most Anticipated New Books of 2021"
One of Guardian( UK)’s 
“Books to Look Forward to this Year”
One of Esquire (UK)’s “21 Books You Should Be Reading in 2021”
One of Cosmopolitan (UK)’s “69 new books by Black and POC authors out in 2021”
One of Elle (UK)’s “2021 Reading List” 
One of Vogue (UK)’s “2021’s most dazzling Debut Novels”
One of Frieze’s “What to Look Forward to in 2021”
One of Stylist (UK)’s “48 Unmissable Books New Books to Read This Year”
One of Evening Standard (UK)’s “Best New Books in 2021”
One of The Metro (UK)’s “10 Gripping Books to Look out for this Year”

One of the New Stateman’s “Most Anticipated Fiction of 2021”

“A first-rate love story that hasn’t been written before...essential and beautiful.”—The Face 

“Nelson’s impressive first novel is tender, lyrical, and all-consuming. . . . In expertly crafted, poetic prose, this British Ghanaian writer tells the story of two young Black artists falling in love, falling out of love, and learning how to be soft and vulnerable in a society that refuses to allow them to be so. . . . A truly exceptional debut.”—Booklist (starred review) 

“Nelson’s breathtaking lyrical debut employs a love story to explore systemic racism and the cultural impact of Black artists. . . . Nelson astutely locates the importance of Black cinema, music, and literature in their lives while capturing the terror brought on by police brutality and the expectations of young Black men to bottle up their emotions. The result is consistently powerful.”—Publishers Weekly 

“Sincere and contemplative.”—Vulture 

“A powerful and sensitive writer . . .By turns poetic and hopeful, searching and harsh, Open Water is, by all measures, the introduction of a talented new voice in literature.”Amazon

An intense, elegant debut.”Guardian UK

“Achingly tender and intensely moving...a majestic debut.”Cosmopolitan UK

“A modern love story that pulls the reader close.”Esquire UK

“Caleb Azumah Nelson explores the power of being truly seen by another, in a world that often refuses to recognize you at all. An exhilarating new voice in British fiction.”Vogue UK 

“A poetic novel about Black identity and first love in the capital from one of Britain’s most exciting young voices.”Harper’s Bazaar 

“This shattering love story about two Black British artists is a compelling insight into race and masculinity. You’ll remember this author’s name.”Elle UK

“This short debut novel is both a sweet, painful love story to savour and an account of what it means to live in fear in your own city, to be viewed simply as a black body and never truly seen. Nelson’s prose is intense and lyrical, with a pleasing scattering of musical references”—The New Statesman

Open Water is a masterclass in portraying intimacy without graphic sexuality…It’s a book about black bodies and strength, vulnerability and fear, with a magnetic romance woven throughout as well that entrances the reader, and lots of writing about music.”—The Evening Standard

Open Water is both a lyrical, tender story about hot, sticky London nights spend falling in love and a devastating and often brutal account of what it means to be a young British Black man. Caleb Azumah Nelson is one to watch.” —Red UK

“Extraordinary”—Woman & Home

“Another dazzling debut that's just landed on shelves is Open Water – a story of two young Black British artists (he a photographer, she a dancer) falling in and out of love. And reader, it's gorgeous from first page to last”—Marie Claire UK

“Caleb’s debut is soulful and poetic, celebrating and exploring the varying emotions of a blossoming romance while offering an insight into race and masculinity.” —Heat

“Dubbed ‘the most essential British debut of recent years’ by critics, we predict this is the book everyone will be talking about in 2021.”—Sheerluxe

“Nelson, therefore, creates a space where a Black reader’s feelings are neither overlooked nor insulted, but the readers are able simply to enjoy the experience conjured up by this book. The author’s rendering feels neither persecutory nor falsely celebratory, the narrative, like the readers, is allowed to simply be. Feeling safe is an important part of this work and finding one’s own space in which one can thrive. What is most impressive is that Nelson has managed to create that impression throughout the book itself. When reading the references, you think yes, yes I do feel safe here, yes, I can recognize this, and I am grateful to Nelson for portraying the reality of so many.”Onyx Magazine

“A brilliant debut whose gentleness and joyfulness are as profound as its examination of the cost of living in a racist society.”Megha Majumdar, author of A BURNING

Open Water is tender poetry, a love song to Black art and thought, an exploration of intimacy and vulnerability between two young artists learning to be soft with each other in a world that hardens against Black people.”Yaa Gyasi, author of HOMEGOING 

“Set to the rhythms of jazz and hip hop, Open Water is an unforgettable story about making art and making a home in another person. In language bursting with grief and joy, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the ode to Black creativity, love, and survival that we need right now.”Nadia Owusu, author of AFTERSHOCKS

“Like the title suggests, Open Water pulls you in with one great swell, and it holds you there closely. A beautiful and powerful novel about the true and sometimes painful depths of love.”Candice Carty-Williams, author of QUEENIE 

Open Water is a beautifully, delicately written novel about love, for self and others, about being seen, about vulnerability and mental health. Sentence by sentence, it oozes longing and grace. Caleb is a star in the making.”Nikesh Shukla, editor of THE GOOD IMMIGRANT and author of BROWN BABY 

“A powerful portrayal of the way that systemic violence can make a person forget softness and vulnerability. It exposes the failure of language to encapsulate feeling and illuminates the love and the anger that rage around the edges of everything.”Jessica Andrews, author of SALTWATER 

“An amazing debut novel. It’s a beautifully narrated, intelligently crafted piece of love that goes deep, and then goes deeper. Let’s hear it for Caleb Azumah Nelson, also known as the future.”Benjamin Zephaniah

“I fell in love at the first line. Open Water is poetry, dance and music, and art, and reading it feels like moving within love, and its iterations through all the above. The book moved me and stilled me, such sumptuous prose, that clarifies whilst also keeping reverence of the sometimes, unexplainable facets of love and life and Blackness. I will always remember it, and I will always return to this novel. A stunning piece of art.”Bolu Babalola, author of LOVE IN COLOR 

Open Water is about defiance, mourning, art and music. It is an ode to being a full human being in a society that does not see you that way. It is about clinging to love in a world heavy with injustice and violence. There is not a wasted page.”Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of HARMLESS LIKE YOU

“A very touching and heartfelt book, passionately written, that brings London to life in a painterly, emotive way. I love its musical richness and espousal of the power of the arts.”Diana Evans, author of ORDINARY PEOPLE 


About the Author

Caleb Azumah Nelson is a British-Ghanaian writer and photographer, living in South East London. His writing is forthcoming or has been published in THE WHITE REVIEW, LITRO and he was recently shortlisted for the BBC Short Story Award, the Palm Photo Prize and won the People’s Choice prize. OPEN WATER is his first novel.