Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo


Doris is a thirteen year old girl going about her business on her family's small farm when it happens.  One minute she is strolling through the field, the next she is grabbed by a large man who puts a hood over her head and hauls her off.  He and another man rush her into the woods, then they travel many miles.  What is happening?  How will her family find her?  She ends up at the coast and as she is put into a pen with other people, she realizes that she is now a slave.  She will now spend the rest of her life serving her black masters.  Doris is white, as are all the other slaves.

Loaded onto a ship, she is taken to another country.  Many die along the way and many of the women are taken out at night and used by the sailors for sex.  When she arrives, Doris is immediately sold off to a wealthy man.  He renames her and tells her that she will be the companion of his small daughter who is to be obeyed in everything.  The daughter is spoiled and vindictive.  She never hesitates to tell Omorenomwara, Doris's new name, how ugly white people are.  Omorenomwara hates her life but knows she is much better off than those working in the house and especially those in the fields.  A tragedy occurs when the daughter dies and then Omorenomwara is sold to another master.

This man realizes that she can read and write and uses her in the office to help with his affairs.  But after she tries to escape, she is tracked down and flogged to within an inch of her life.  No longer trusted, she is sent to cut sugar cane on an island where her life is even more difficult and brutal.  Along the way, she has had three children all of whom were taken from her and sold.  Omorenomwara is determined to be free but is there any way for this to happen?

Evaristo has written an alternative history that spotlights the indignities and cruelty of slavery in a new light that may resonate with those who have never considered it before.  The hardships are both large and overwhelming and small but created to break the spirit of those enslaved.  Omorenomwara is a determined woman but can anyone fight against such institutionalized cruelty?  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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