Monday, August 17, 2009

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

"Blonde Roots" by Bernardine Evaristo is a provocative and powerful alternate history that asks the question - what if Europeans had been enslaved by Africans? She satirizes preconceived ideas of race and culture by turning history inside out and upside down. The title gives a nod to "Roots" by Alex Haley and references to his book appear in hers. The story is narrated in three parts, the first and third by a young English slave girl and the middle by her African master, who attempts to justify his inhuman behavior.

Doris Scagglethorpe, an eleven year-old blonde English girl, is kidnapped by slave traders while playing hide-and-seek with her sisters. She's transported on a slave ship to the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa, part of the continent of Aphrika. Her new owner, Chief Kaga Konata Katamba renames her Omorenomwara and brands her with his initials KKK. Omo runs away, is captured again, and tries a second escape, always dreaming of finding her family and returning home to England.

Evaristo weaves parody and humor throughout this poignant story. Her premise brings to mind the movie "White Man's Burden," starring John Travolta and Harry Belafonte. It's a contemporary role reversal film, but doesn't depict the slave trade. Evaristo focuses new attention on a period of history that was horrifyingly real by inverting events and placing them in a modern time frame. Stereotypes abound but the characterization is so good that readers will become invested in them. Readers may find the revelations difficult to read in this thought-provoking story that challenges our perceptions of race. It makes a powerful statement about humanity and the way people treat each other.

Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1 edition (January 22, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-59448-863-4
Hardcover: 288 Pages
Price: $24.95

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