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Blonde Roots

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Blonde Roots Cover

ISBN13: 9781594488634
ISBN10: 1594488630
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Review-A-Day

"Blonde Roots turns the whole world on its nappy head, and you'll be surprised how different it looks — and how similar. In the reverse-image past that Evaristo imagines, civilized Africans have built a vibrant culture and economy by capturing primitive Europeans and using them as slaves. This ingenious bit of "what-if" speculation provides the backdrop for a thrilling adventure about a "whyte" woman named Doris Scagglethorpe who works as a "house wigger" for Chief Kaga Konata Katamba." Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A provocative novel that upends the history of the transatlantic slave trade, reversing and reexamining notions of savagery and civilization, as it follows a young woman's journey to freedom.

Award-winning writer Bernardine Evaristo's novel Blonde Roots asks: What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? And how would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers — and sometimes festers — today?

We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman who is kidnapped one day while playing hide-and-seek with her sisters in the fields near their home. She is subsequently enslaved and taken to the New World, as well as to the imperial center of Great Ambossa. She movingly recounts experiences of tremendous hardship and dreams of the people she's left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

A poignant and dramatic story grounded in provocative ideas, Blonde Roots is a genuinely original, profoundly imaginative novel.

Review:

"British novelist Evaristo delivers an astonishing, uncomfortable and beautiful alternative history that goes back several centuries to flip the slave trade, with 'Aphrikans' enslaving the people of 'Europa' and exporting many of them to 'Amarika.' The plot revolves around Doris, the daughter of a long line of proud cabbage farmers who live in serfdom. After she's kidnapped by slavers, she experiences the horror and inhumanity of slave transport, is sold and works her way back to freedom. The narrative cuts back and forth through time, contrasting the journey to freedom with the journey toward slavery. In a less skilled writer's hands, the premise easily could have worn itself out by the second chapter, but Evaristo's intellectually rigorous narrative constantly surprises, and, for all the barbarism on display, it's strikingly human. Evaristo's novel is a powerful, thoughtful reminder that diabolical behavior can take place in any culture, 'safety' is an illusion and freedom is something easily taken for granted. This difficult and provocative book is a conversation sparker." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

My only complaint about Bernardine Evaristo's alternate history of racial slavery is that it's 150 years late. Imagine the outrage this clever novel would have provoked alongside Harriet Beecher Stowe's incendiary story or Frederick Douglass' memoir! But now, amid the warm glow of 21st-century liberalism, with our brilliant black president, what could we possibly learn from a new satire of slavery?

... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Evaristo wields an imaginative power in Blonde Roots that invites the curious to a whopping 'what if?' of a story." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"Despite the seriousness of the subject, a lot of that fun rubs off on the reader, too. Evaristo works very close to farce, but none of what she does ever seems nonsensical." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Owing to the poetically surreal quality of its prose, Evaristo's deeply political writing is never far from endearing. Blonde Roots jolts the reader into looking at, and in turn learning from, history with new eyes." St. Petersburg Times

Review:

"Watch for the smart plays on real-world geography and history; the where-are-they-now notes at the end of the book are not to be missed either. A light entertainment on the surface, but with hidden depths; nicely written." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Acclaimed British author Evaristo captures and reverses the social dynamics that cause people to adapt and to protect their culture under the oppressive and dehumanizing conditions of slavery." Booklist

Review:

"The wide variety of characters, the examinations of image and identity, and Doris's own adventures may make this a popular selection for book groups. Highly recommended." Library Journal

About the Author

Bernardine Evaristo is one of eight siblings born in London to an English mother and a Nigerian father. An award-winning writer, she is the author of three critically acclaimed novels-in-verse, has coedited Granta's New Writing 15, and has written for a wide variety of print, radio, and media including The Guardian, Times (London), BOMB magazine, and the BBC. The recipient of several awards, most recently a NESTA Fellowship Award, Evaristo is a fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature as well as of the Royal Society of Arts.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Sparkie3, June 1, 2009 (view all comments by Sparkie3)
Slavery from the view of a white person in an African American's world. This book is the first of its kind to reverse rolls. Very refreshing perspective and experience through the main character. The struggle for freedom makes me fully appreciate where I live.
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
B&b ex libris, March 3, 2009 (view all comments by B&b ex libris)
The premise is that back in the day of slavery ships and wealthy slave owners, the roles were reversed. African's owned lands in Ambrosia where European indentured servants were transported (yes, middle passage and all). Europeans take on the exact role that Africans really did have in history. They are viewed as being dumb, ugly, savage-like, and not having human ties to their offspring.

Blonde Roots follows one Englishwoman (Doris) who is kidnapped from her family of cabbage farmers while playing outside with her siblings. She is taken to Ambrosia and only dreams of getting back home. She is torn from her family and displaced into slavery and the bonds and ties that brings. Half way through the book (or part way) we hear the story for a little while from the perspective of the slave owner, Bwana and then back to Doris, the slave for the conclusion.

Bernardine Evaristo wrote this portrayal in a modern way, using modern slang and things that would not have existed at all then, which is actually something I partially appreciated. The writing is interesting, and the concept is stunning. The idea of the novel is strong, but in my opinion not well executed. I felt it horribly lacking in power. I never felt connected to Doris, the other slaves or the slave owners...and I wanted that! I didn't care really if they even made it that is how much I just felt her writing fell flat thus not allowing me to form emotional bonds with the characters.

One thing that I did find interesting is that over and over I had to remind myself that the slaves where Europeans! Whenever I am reading a book I have an image in my mind of the characters and what is happening. In Blonde Roots I kept realising that in my mind's eye I kept reversing the roles to the way that they actually were. I felt bad at first that I kept switching it back and didn't know if that would make me look horrid to confess that on here. I thought about it and really came to understand that my mind just was stuck in a rut, as it is really hard for me to imagine the roles reversed! And yet, that is the way it could have been!

There were many good things about this book, but as I am an avid lover of good character development and well formed plots....I can't say I feel that Bernadine Evaristo ended up giving her novel the potential that it had in concept. I felt immensely confused and disconnected against my own will.

What do you think of the concept, doesn't it sound like a great book from the outside!?!
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781594488634
Publisher:
Riverhead Trade
Subject:
Literary
Author:
Evaristo, Bernardine
Subject:
Slave-trade
Subject:
Alternative History
Subject:
Satire
Subject:
Alternative histories (Fiction)
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20100105
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.16x6.32x1.05 in. .81 lbs.
Age Level:
14-13

Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Blonde Roots
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 288 pages Riverhead Hardcover - English 9781594488634 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "British novelist Evaristo delivers an astonishing, uncomfortable and beautiful alternative history that goes back several centuries to flip the slave trade, with 'Aphrikans' enslaving the people of 'Europa' and exporting many of them to 'Amarika.' The plot revolves around Doris, the daughter of a long line of proud cabbage farmers who live in serfdom. After she's kidnapped by slavers, she experiences the horror and inhumanity of slave transport, is sold and works her way back to freedom. The narrative cuts back and forth through time, contrasting the journey to freedom with the journey toward slavery. In a less skilled writer's hands, the premise easily could have worn itself out by the second chapter, but Evaristo's intellectually rigorous narrative constantly surprises, and, for all the barbarism on display, it's strikingly human. Evaristo's novel is a powerful, thoughtful reminder that diabolical behavior can take place in any culture, 'safety' is an illusion and freedom is something easily taken for granted. This difficult and provocative book is a conversation sparker." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Blonde Roots turns the whole world on its nappy head, and you'll be surprised how different it looks — and how similar. In the reverse-image past that Evaristo imagines, civilized Africans have built a vibrant culture and economy by capturing primitive Europeans and using them as slaves. This ingenious bit of "what-if" speculation provides the backdrop for a thrilling adventure about a "whyte" woman named Doris Scagglethorpe who works as a "house wigger" for Chief Kaga Konata Katamba." (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
"Review" by , "Evaristo wields an imaginative power in Blonde Roots that invites the curious to a whopping 'what if?' of a story."
"Review" by , "Despite the seriousness of the subject, a lot of that fun rubs off on the reader, too. Evaristo works very close to farce, but none of what she does ever seems nonsensical."
"Review" by , "Owing to the poetically surreal quality of its prose, Evaristo's deeply political writing is never far from endearing. Blonde Roots jolts the reader into looking at, and in turn learning from, history with new eyes."
"Review" by , "Watch for the smart plays on real-world geography and history; the where-are-they-now notes at the end of the book are not to be missed either. A light entertainment on the surface, but with hidden depths; nicely written."
"Review" by , "Acclaimed British author Evaristo captures and reverses the social dynamics that cause people to adapt and to protect their culture under the oppressive and dehumanizing conditions of slavery."
"Review" by , "The wide variety of characters, the examinations of image and identity, and Doris's own adventures may make this a popular selection for book groups. Highly recommended."
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