Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blonde Roots

Blonde Roots - Bernardine Evaristo

Blonde RootsThis is a slave's story, but not quite the one you're expecting.  In Evaristo's tale, the blacks have become the slave-traders and the whites, slaves. Doris, a poor, young English serf living on her family's farm under their feudal lord's yoke circa 19th-century, is captured by Aphrikan slave-traders and subsequently forced to endure a life of slavery as in reality so many black Africans experienced. The reader is swept through Doris' shock of capture, first experiences of servitude in a strange land, the incredible disease and death during the Middle Passage route to Amarika and a life of complete despair as a whyte slave among many in "New Ambossa" where Doris finally lands. This will read like the slave narratives you're probably familiar with from school, but so much more vivid and lifelike. The pages turn themselves as Evaristo's beautiful descriptions of life in then-Aphrika and New Ambossa reveal cultures "whyte" and "blak" and perspectives that become almost interchangeable between the two races. Truths about human nature surpass both color and culture in narratives rich with Doris' observations of her peers in slavery and the often hilarious takes on the slave drivers and masters. I even found myself forgetting the cultures (and skin colors) of the characters as the story goes on (and the pages keep turning!), and coming to understand these characters free from the supposed trappings of culture and even sympathizing with their faults, which still had terrible consequences. This part of the book, very effective for me.

I'd love to supply you with a  pithy quote from the novel however I was not able to stop reading for long enough to grab myself a post-it and mark the sections I wanted to share. Sorry about that, but it's a nice, appropriately short book, which is something to treasure these days - it gets the point across beautifully, and keeps the reader guessing long after the last words are read. Highly recommended.

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