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Blonde Roots

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,003 Ratings  ·  193 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 the in
...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 22nd 2009 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published July 31st 2008)
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Paul
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up
A clever satire on race and slavery. Evaristo, who is of Nigerian and British descent, generally writes poetry, but this is a novel about the slave trade. It is the slave trade in reverse; in Evaristo’s language the whytes are the slaves and the blaks are the masters and slave-owners. A number of reviewers have complained about time lines, geography and historical accuracy. My advice would be suspend that sort of judgement. This is a satire. It’s not fantasy, but nor has the
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Sara
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
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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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.

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 covert yet mentally alert blue eyes. Yes, I may be whyte. But I am whyte and
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Ron Charles
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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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Travis
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009, fiction
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
Elaine
Apr 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
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, heartrendin
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Trin
Feb 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: english-lit, fiction
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
Charlotte
Jun 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: may-june-2009

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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Lina
Mar 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
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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M
Mar 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Susan
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
...more
Therese
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Erin
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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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Diriye Osman
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A stunning, stunning novel. Beautifully written with a sense of precision and stylistic flair. I love this book.
S
Dec 20, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the poorest written books I've read in a while. For good writing and well thought out world building on this topic, read Steven Barnes's 'Lion's Blood' and 'Zulu Heart' instead.
Akylina
I'm putting this away for now, since it feels like a chore even picking it up to continue where I left off last time. Perhaps I will give it another chance later.
Ashley
Jun 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This book was garbage. From the really cringeworthy and casual dropping of "Europa," clogs, and "Aphrika" I was shook at the actual audacity that the author thought this would work. There were so many moving parts in this first chapter alone, that by the time I got to the part that mentioned the "underground railroad" being an actual train, I couldn't do it. I understand taking a different look and being creative with history, but you have to make sense! I was forcing myself to chug on, all the ...more
Troy
Jun 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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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Ashley
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Gracey
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: least-favorites
I didn't understand the point of this book. Ordinarily, I don't worry about the point of a book; most of them are written simply because the author had an idea for a story and they wrote it down. And, that is probably the case here, but the author took something that is known, well-known, and twisted it for her own purposes and I don't know what those purposes are/were.

This is a story about the slave trade. But, instead of Africans being captured and sold into slavery, Europeans were. The main A
...more
Sarah Kathleen
May 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2009
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
Kit
Sep 21, 2009 rated it liked it
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
...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
Carol
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 *
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
Sunny
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting book which pretty much reflects the opposite of what happens in Alex Haley’s classic Roots. Except this time the black race is the alpha race and Europe and Africa have switched round in Name. So Blacks now enslave whites from a land which resembles Africa in structure but is called Europe into a land which resembles Europe but is called Africa. Its an interesting book that imagines what London (Londo) would be like if it had a historic and intrinsic Afrian feel to it and a lot of th ...more
April
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Allison
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jule
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diversity-misc
A while ago, while reading 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 me tell y
...more
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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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“We slaves don't end relationships. Other people do it for us. Often we don't start them either, other people do it for us. We're encouraged to breed merely to increase the workforce.” 0 likes
“I could see how the Ambossans had hardened their hearts to our humanity. They convinced themselves that we do not feel as they do, so that they do not have to feel anything for us. It's very convenient and lucrative for them.” 0 likes
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