“Blonde Roots”by Bernadine Evaristo (2008)
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Page Length: 288 pages (paperback edition)
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. (description from Goodreads)
This novel takes everything you learned about the transatlantic slave trade and does a complete 180. In Blonde Roots, Europeans have been enslaved by Africans and the world is a completely different place. Implements of modern-day society are woven into the story even though the story is set in its original time. We see terms like “suburbia”pop up and even read about the “fashion trend” of baggy pants. It’s funny, but at the same time, a commentary on how we live today.
Evaristo is clever and talented with the way she tells the story and how her characters develop over the course of the novel. Satire is evident as in the second part of the novel where the pov changes from Doris, our protagonist to the Great Ambossa and he is horrified at witch trials, traditional holidays, and other European customs. Though the novel is satirical I like the fact the Evaristo never strays away from the fact that these horrible things happened to REAL people.
Doris is a strong, admirable protagonist and as the story moves along you are rooting for her fight to freedom. The story has a nice pace without feeling too rushed chronologically. I also thought the change of the pov from Doris to the Great Ambossa was interesting as it allowed us to see what was happening from both sides.
This novel was definitely unlike anything I have read before and I thought the “flip the script” take on this historical era was really unique. 5 out of 5 stars!