Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bernardine Evaristo

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?

From Evaristo's Q & A with Elizabeth Floyd Mair of the (Albany) Times Union:

Q: This is an unusual idea for a novel. How did the idea first come to you?

A: I wanted to write about slavery, or more specifically, Britain's involvement in the slave trade, which was, by the 1730s, Europe's largest slave-trading nation. We are all now familiar with America's slave history, but Britain's own history, which was considerable and of incredible economic benefit to the country, has been overlooked. Slavery is a subject that elicits very strong, often inflexible responses, and I wanted to find a way to explore this history afresh. I came up with the idea of inverting the history so that Africans enslaved Europeans. As with all my books, "Blonde Roots" began with the germ of an idea that I pushed to see if it had book-length potential. The more I wrote, the more I found there was to write about, and it became an adventure that was not only about transatlantic slavery but also about its legacy in the form of modern-day racism.

Q: How does the legacy of slavery differ today for blacks in the United Kingdom and blacks in the United States?

A. [read on]
The Page 69 Test: Blonde Roots.

--Marshal Zeringue