By Bernardine Evaristo
(Fiction, 2009, 270 pages)
Blonde Roots was awarded prizes from 11 different literary organizations including the 2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and The Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009 – even so I would not recommend this book.
Published in England in 2008, the novel is a satire that flips the story of slavery. The black ‘Aphrikans’ are the masters/slave owners while ‘Europane’ whites are held in captivity. The story takes place in the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa (really the UK) and the West Japanese Islands (Caribbean Islands) over four centuries.
I was attracted to the book because of the rave reviews, the originality of the title, the curious cover art and the challenge of reading about an alternate history. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find that the plot offered no new insights into slavery, no new challenges morally or emotionally. The story is predictable and safe- focusing on the horrors of slavery and how slave traders and slave holders justified their practices. The racist attitudes and stereotypes were the same whether black or white.
Ms. Evaristo has a passionate love for language and cleverly experiments with language to add humor to the book. For example, the Underground Railroad is literally a dilapidated subway/tube system used for escape by slaves in ‘Londolo.’ The subway walls are covered with posters advertising dramas named “Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner” and “To Sir with Hate.” White slaves are called ‘wiggers’ and are branded with their owner’s initials, KKK.
Although the author wanted to turn the world upside down, she only manages to substitute one color for another. Nothing else in the plot is original, surprising or enlightening.
Other Books of Alternative History
Review by Carol