Black Man under the Deep Blue Sea: Memoirs of a Black Commercial Diver in
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By Tony Wells
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (September 24, 2007)
Book Review by Emanuel Carpenter
What if Jacques Cousteau was a black American? Would he have had the opportunities to explore the waters, write books about his experiences, and have TV documentaries made on his behalf? Or would he have faced the same barriers as black commercial diver Tony Wells? In Wells' memoir, ’Black Man under the Deep Blue Sea,’ we learn of the author's obstacles in attempting to be a successful diver, among them being the inherent risk, the difficult training requirements, and even racism.
’Black Man under the Deep Blue Sea,’ commences with the author's humble beginnings in Michigan as the product of divorce, life in a small town in Illinois where he enjoyed hunting and fishing with his buddies, and eventually a life in Hawaii with his mother and stepdad who was serving in the military. In Hawaii, surrounded by beautiful mountains and clear water, Wells makes a life-changing decision to take up scuba diving. Though the courses are difficult, especially since he must first learn to swim, he completes them successfully, regardless of the ridicule he faces from a fellow black classmate who tells him ’brothers don't do that shit’:
’Oh? Why can't brothers do that shit?’ I retorted back.
His immediate retort was, ’Just because! How many brothers do you see doing any of that stuff?’
His last question caught me by surprise because it never even occurred to me, but I didn't know any other brother's (sic) doing any of the stuff I'd been doing, and I had never even thought about or questioned it. I guess I was raised thinking that color was never a factor in whether you could do something in life or not. Who cares what color you are? If you wanted to do it then just go and do it. Otherwise, shut up.
Oh, but brothers can dive, and Wells becomes an expert in the field. Later in the book, we learn just how race and politics affect the diver and his drive for commercial success, from being called a nigger by a racist South African supervisor to losing out on jobs due to red tape put in place by the British. We even learn of the author's adventures in Singapore as a model, actor, and even a gigolo paid to have sex with a woman while her partner watches. What's more, there are interesting stories of near deaths, stories of the Chinese mafia, and humor to keep you smiling throughout this rather unique book.
Wells is not the most gifted writer on the planet. His awkward storytelling
style includes too much technical jargon and reads more like a diary than a
polished draft, and the work could use a stronger edit. However, the book itself
depicting an African-American military brat who ends up working as a commercial
diver, traveling around the world, and defying against all odds makes a
fascinating memoir. It is very educational for anyone seeking to learn about the
financial benefits a commercial diver can obtain, the odds a minority might face
in the business, and how one can overcome any odds when he puts his mind to it.
Perhaps with a ghostwriter, it could become a bestselling Black History memoir.