Book review: Blonde roots

I bought this book for 2 reasons:

  • The author, as I liked her book Girl, Woman, Other. I even did a book review on the blog.
  • The story, as it’s about a reverse slavery. White Europeans are the slave and Africans are the superior race.

Synopsis:

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 insidious racism that still lingers today? We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

My opinion:

I fucking loved it!!!

From the subject to the plot twists, this book is one of a kind and a refreshing change for me.

« Blonde roots » is a smart satire on race, slavery and society. It covers the reverse slave trade and we follow a young European « Whyte » girl in this quest of liberty. The story starts with the escape of this slave and how she is trying to follow an illusion of freedom. Her perilous adventures as she is recaptured then escapes, keeps us addicted to the pages and wanting to know more.

The book has a great cadence yet the timeline is confusing. We get an insight into Doris past and present and how she came to live the adventures. But there is no way to determine if its recent times or old centuries as there are no details. Same goes for geography as I kept on getting confused on where we are in the story.

Bernardine wrote this book differently from her previous one, its less poetic and it suits her well. I love the creativity and imagination behind the story. As the slave Doris works as a « House wigger », which is how slaves are called in this book. She is branded by her owner with his initials: KKK. Genious right? Though the book covers in details what slaves suffered as physical torture as well as psychological, it still was filled with many stereotypes on black and white people (No in between).

The author took the time to explain how society beauty standards were defined based on the dominant culture. There are many references to tanning activities, intricate hairstyles and braids, physical features to be corrected to look like the beautiful African women. I have to admit, it was refreshing to read this section of the book.

I personally struggled with the plantation section as it was written in a « Whytes thick patois ». It took me some time to understand and frankly i felt like it was not needed as it was difficult to follow the story and i had to skip some sections. My advice to you guys is to avoid reading while doing a reverse transposition of events: what i mean is that for example in the book « christmas » is described as « voodoo celebration ». There are many other events or nods to similar « copy-replace » situations. Just focus on the story and avoid trying to understand these blak vs Whyte changes or you will get confused.

How should we remember the enormity of the slave trade? | Royal Museums  Greenwich Blog

Bernardine wrote in the middle of the book an essay on slavery, slavery trade and europanes customs. Its a memoir of the slave owners with some kind of self-justification to the legitimacy of their action with some supposed backed scientific proof and cultural input. A really well written satire and fake document. I was pissed-off while reading it as I remembered that such documents exist for real and were used for centuries as a baseline for slavery and race superiority laws and discussions.

« Blonde roots » finishes on a high note and with a nod to the effect of slavery on families, the women working to death, the children raised to be killed or lost, the becoming thugs… Its an enlightening ending that shows the rippling effect on slavery nowadays even though it is supposed to be over more than 150 years ago.

I personally loved « Blonde roots » and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads 😀 Imma look for her other books as she wrote many other novels.