[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for all related sources.] Jessica Pressman (The Conversation) reviews recent Black mermaid fiction in “Disney’s Black mermaid is no breakthrough – just look at the literary subgenre of Black mermaid fiction.” See full article for a review of Rivers Solomon’s The Deep (2019), Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid of Black Conch (2020), and Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon (2014).
Mermaids have become a cultural phenomenon, and clashes about mermaids and race have spilled out into the open. This is most pointedly apparent in the backlash over Disney’s much-anticipated “The Little Mermaid.”
After Disney unveiled its trailer for the film, which will be released in May 2023, social media captured the faces of gleeful young Black girls seeing Black mermaids onscreen for the first time. Less inspiring was the racism that simultaneously occurred, with hashtags like #NotMyMermaid and #MakeMermaidsWhiteAgain circulating on Twitter.
The fact that Disney’s portrayal of a nonwhite mermaid is controversial is due to 150 years of whitewashing.
In a 2019 op-ed for The New York Times, writer Tracey Baptiste – whose children’s novel “Rise of the Jumbies” features a Black mermaid as the protagonist – points out how “Eurocentric stories have obscured the African origins of mermaids.”
Here are three very different works of Black mermaid fiction that, in my view, deserve attention. [. . .]
[Image above from Indigo Arts Gallery. See “Water Spirits: La Sirena, La Sirene, Agoué, Yemaya, Yemanja, Oshun, La Caridad, Matsya, Mamy Wata and Assorted Fish-Tales” at https://indigoarts.com/exhibitions/water-spirits-la-sirena-la-sirene-agou-yemaya-yemanja-oshun-la-caridad-matsya-mamy-wata]
A few other resources on mermaids in the Caribbean:
Elba Spires, Taino Library, December 8, 2022
https://www.facebook.com/TainoLibrary/videos/1812996405724050 (December 11, 2022)
The History of Black Mermaids in the Caribbean and Southern USA
Fiona Compton, Know Your Caribbean [Podcast], September 15, 2022
Simbi ~ La Sirèn
Kristie Stephenson, Story & Myth, May 5, 2020
Caribbean mermaids and evil spirits with Tracey Baptiste
Danielle Legros Georges, Why We Write [Podcast], Lesley University, November 5, 2019