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Blonde Roots

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  696 ratings  ·  160 reviews
The most provocative debut novel of the year, "a dizzying satire" ("The New Yorker") that "boldly turns history on its head" ("Elle").
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? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and t
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Paperback, 260 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published July 31st 2008)
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Sara
When I read this book’s description, I thought: Wow! What a genuinely interesting, creative, and fresh idea for a novel. And Elle Magazine, my barometer for books I’d probably enjoy, praised it. Yet I was disappointed.

The story is slow paced. It alternates between two points of view, the heroine (a white slave girl) and our antagonist (a black slave trader). But for some reason the heroine is dull at best, and the slave trader is witty making for a disturbing debate of whom to root for.

The aut
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Trin
What if Africans had been the ones to enslave Europeans instead of the other way around? That’s the premise Evaristo uses to launch this harrowing alternate history, which in general does a fantastic job shedding fresh light not just on the horrors of slavery—which, even if we are all generally aware of them, it can never hurt to be reminded of in stark, brutal, specific detail: people did these things to other people—but also on slavery’s ongoing ripples and aftereffects, exposing the very whit ...more
Travis
Doris Scagglethorpe, the daughter of a cabbage farmer, was ten years old when she's captured by slavers. Now twenty years later, she's trying to escape.[return][return]This is an interesting premise. Blacks (or blaks, as they are inexplicably called in the book (more on that later)) are the dominant race and whites (whytes) are the ones enslaved. It's not an alternate history, nor is it a fantasy set in another world. I'm not really sure what it is, or what it wants to be, and that was the probl ...more
Ron Charles
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's 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?

Plenty.

Blonde Roots turns the whole world on its nappy head, and you'll be surprised how different
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Elizabeth
Critics would have you believe that Ms. Evaristo has written an "astonishing," "clever," and "beautiful" novel about an alternative history scenario to the slave trade.

Reader, beware!! She. Seriously. Fails.

Example:

Doris and her mantras:

Every morning I'd repeat an uplifting mantra to myself while looking in the mirror. "I may be fair and flaxen. I may have slim nostrils and slender lips. I may have oil-rich hair and a non-rotund bottom. I may blush easily, go rubicund in the sun and have cover
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Charlotte
Blonde Roots is set in a parallel universe, where African, not European, cultures use shipping and weapons technology to create colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean, and to kidnap millions of people and enslave them to work on sugar plantations. Residents of the Atlantic coastal fringes of Europa - the English, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, and Scandinavians - are particularly at risk of being stolen away from their families, regardless of rank or priviledge, and crammed into slave ships bou ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Part alternate history and part biting satire, Evaristo's new novel plays fast and loose with geography, history, language, and culture as it restructures the world in a successful bid to reimagine the institution of slavery. Evaristo also includes several chapters narrated by Doris's master, who justifies the practice of slavery on pseudoscientific grounds and even congratulates himself on saving the brutal "whyte" heathens from lives of savagery. The world Evaristo creates is wholly foreign, y

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Erin
This book was so clever and enjoyable to read! I do think it's satire, no matter what any moms say. The one question I am left with and I wish the book explored -- why was the world's geography different? Did slavery arise from the way the world was laid out? I don't know enough to answer this question. Was hoping that it was touched on in the book but wasn't.

The joy in this book are the tiny, obsessive details. African slavers freezing on the shores of England b/c they refuse to wear "european"
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M
What began as a cute and somewhat clever 'what if' tale of a reversal in the white folk enslaving the black quickly became a dragged out and horribly graphic story that took too long to end. It also had little more than its gimmick to promote itself.
Diriye Osman
A stunning, stunning novel. Beautifully written with a sense of precision and stylistic flair. I love this book.
Susan
Blonde Roots has an epigraph by Nietzsche: "All things are subject to interpretation: whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth." After reading the book, I'm still thinking about the implications of the epigraph. Bernardine Evaristo imagines a detailed alternate world where blaks have enslaved whytes and imposed their culture on the world, and in doing so she not only makes an anti-slavery message, but also a striking anti-imperialism message.

The main
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Ashley
Evaristo turns history on its head by asking what would it have been like if Africans had enslaved Europeans, rather than the other way around? The story covers the transatlantic slave trade (in reverse), daily life on the plantations, punishment for slaves caught trying to escape, and whole host of other issues.

The main character, Omorenomwara (formerly known as Doris), is intensely likable - she is feisty and smart, and you're rooting for a happy ending for her from page 1. Her story is heartb
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Therese
I knew I was in for something very different when I chose to read this book, which is basically a switcheroo on the idea of African slavery. Basically in this book the Africans take the whites as slaves from Europe and America and bring them back to Africa.

There are some parts that are a bit contrived or cheesy, but for the most part the author did a really good job of really putting the reader in a slave's place. Also, I hadn't expected to get the viewpoint of the slave owner, so that was inte
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Andrew
This is a book that I heard of through the Simon Mayo Radio 5 Live book review show that is released as a podcast, and it sounded intriguing: a role reversal book set on an Earth where the Africans became the slave traders and the Europeans the slaves. The narrative jumps about all over the place – the first third of the book tells the story of Doris, a slave for a major slave trader, Chief Kaga Konata Katamba, and her escape attempt, whilst being interspersed with flashbacks that tell the story ...more
Sarah Kathleen
I like this book. I think it's Important. It really changed the way that I look at western history, I'm pretty sure. It's an interesting story, one that maybe is a little cliched in some ways, although I'd hardly say it's common. But simply by reversing the races of the enslaved and the slavers, it reframes so much that even now people people believe. Only ten years ago, I was taught in high school that Europeans only began enslaving Africans because the Africans started it. If they weren't alre ...more
Stephanie
Spoiler alert: It was an interesting book. I liked how someone took the history of the slave trade and turned it around so that we could see it from a different perspective. One thing that kept catching me was the fact that I couldn't place it in a time period. One minute it would sound like it's in the 1700-1800s, and the next minute it'd be talking about going to the disco, electronic music, gangs, men walking with "swagger" with their pants half-way down their butts, and books titled somethin ...more
Kit
Blonde Roots got great prepub publicity, and the premise was interesting - what if Africans had enslaved Europeans instead of the other way around? The strongest part of this book is the details of the lives of slaves, which are desperately powerful and compelling. There's no way not to be moved by a description of the Middle Passage or of life on a Carribbean plantation.

But for the rest of the book, I'm not sure what the point is. It doesn't really work as satire; I cared too much about the cha
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Troy
As a literary work, this book is fine. As in, in the pages I read, there are no glaring grammatical errors, sentence structure is intact, and the author has crafted characters and a universe that I find discomforting and, frankly, upsetting. That must mean that, while that was probably not the author's aim, that aroused those senses in me.

While not meaning to, it is going to be impossible for a reader of today to NOT identifyt with the “whytes” in this fictional book moreso than the tales of act
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Lina
I couldn't read this anymore. I am sure that Bernadine Evaristo is a great writer with good intentions with this satire, I just could not handle reading this book. I mean, the overall story of Blonde Roots is slavery is bad no matter who does it.

Well, duh. It's called history. We have seen in the past that slavery, regardless of who does it is horrible. That doesn't mean that the African Slave Trade has to be race-bent in order to show that. Especially when the results are not equal at all. I m
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Elaine
A little bit of cleverness goes a long way...too much -- jumbled anachronism, twisted geography, transplanted London place names, and a literal Underground Railway (hah!) -- makes a supposedly thought provoking novel more like a spin through a clever blog.

The central race flipping premise isn't thought out -- it wobbles between crude stereotypes and simple re-hashing of other people's books about slavery. Reading it so soon after the Book of Night Women, an entirely passionate, serious, heart re
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April
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jule
A while ago, while reading The Help"The Help" for a term paper, I complained to a friend how unfair this whole race thing was and how easily it could have been reversed, with the whites being the “lower class” and the black people the “upper class”.

And now, a semester later - what is on the reading list for one of my seminars? "Blonde Roots", which deals with exactly this what-if scenario.

What if it had been the Europeans who were enslaved by the Africans and sold to America to work there?

Let
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Amanda
This is such a fresh and creative story. Evaristo flips all our preconceived notions by telling an of alternate history in which "Aphrikans" take the "Europanes" as their slaves. The novel follows a poor white girl named Doris who was stolen from her family of serfs and thrown onto a ship full of slaves. She eventually ends up working in the office of an Aphrikan man who is pretty high up on the social ladder. She plots her escape and dreams of seeing her family and her lover again someday. But ...more
Casey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anne
Review originally published at www.thebookworldofanne.blogspot.co.uk

I was really intrigued when I read the blurb of this book, I thought it would be really interesting and moving but I was really disappointed by it. While it was thought-provoking and moving at times, it didn't capture my imagination in the same way that Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman did (an amazing book from what I remember, it has been quite a long time since I read it).

I thought it was clever that mid-way through the
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Tammy
Bernadine Evaristo gives a color-blind look at the slave trade by using alternative history to discuss what would have happened if white Europeans were enslaved by black Africans. The engaging story of Doris Scragglethrope who is kidnapped by slave traders in England and sold into slavery ingeniously lets readers see the slave trade from the point of view of a household slave with a desk job to those who work out in the fields. It even described the trade from the point of view of the slave mast ...more
Allison
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mocha Girl
In Blonde Roots, Benardine Evaristo's latest novel, an alternate universe exists in which Aphrikans (Africans/Blacks) are the dominant race and the slave trade imports Europans (Europeans/Whites). The author has redrawn the map of the world as we know it. A graphical depiction provided in the opening pages shows Londolo, a capital city of the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa, located directly below the equator and immediately off the coast of Aphrika. The puns and acerbic bites of satire are not ...more
Abigailann (Abigail)

A daring and thought-provoking book, this story does its job very well. It was strange at first, reading about this different and yet familiar world, but as the book went it is seemed more and more real. Don't get me wrong, it was never a completely comfortable read, but is was scary how believable it all became.

It was easy to resonate with the character of Doris, to appreciate her viewpoint on the situation she was in. The others appeared as individuals, with clear ways of seeing the world i
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Beth
A unique take on slavery . . . what if it had been reversed. Whites captured and enslaved by the blacks.

Although there is nothing new in the circumstances of what happened, we all know about slave ships and the horrific treatment, her characters and her premise make it very real.

It takes place long ago in a time intermixed with modern cultural references in a geography that doesn't quite exist. It's equal parts witty, horrific, funny, and sad. Sometimes within the same page. The viewpoints of bo
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Bernardine Evaristo is a British writer, born in Woolwich, south east London to an English mother and Nigerian father. She has written novels in various mixes of prose and poetry; she has also written poems, radio plays, and theatre plays. Among her other honours, The Emperor's Babe was chosen as one of the Times' "100 Best Books of the Decade" and Evaristo was named a Member of the British Empire ...more
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