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Blonde Roots Hardcover – 31 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (31 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241143853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241143858
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.6 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 322,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of seven books including her new novel, Mr Loverman, about a 74 yr old Caribbean London man who is closet homosexual (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2013 & Akashic USA, 2014). Her writing is characterised by experimentation, daring, subversion and challenging the myths of various Afro-diasporic histories and identities. Her books range in genre from poetry, verse-novels, a novel-with-verse, a novella, short stories, prose novels, radio and theatre drama, and literary essays and criticism. Her eighth book will be a collection of her short stories, published by in Italian by Carocci in 2015. The first monograph on her work, Fiction Unbound by Sebnem Toplu, was published in August 2011 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. The second will be published by Carocci in 2015.

Her awards include the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, EMMA Best Book Award, Big Red Read, Orange Youth Panel Award, NESTA Fellowship Award and Arts Council Writer's Award. Her books have been a Best Book of the Year 13 times in British newspapers and magazines and The Emperor's Babe was a Times 'Book of the Decade'. Hello Mum has been chosen as one of twenty titles for World Book Night in 2014. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006, and she received an MBE in 2009.

Her books are: MR LOVERMAN (Penguin, 2013), HELLO MUM (Penguin 2010), LARA (Bloodaxe 2009), BlONDE ROOTS (Penguin 2008), SOUL TOURISTS (Penguin 2005), THE EMPEROR'S BABE (Penguin 2001), the first version of LARA (ARP 1997), ISLAND OF ABRAHAM (Peepal Tree, 1994). For more information visit BOOKS. Her verse novel The Emperor's Babe was adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play in 2013 and her novella Hello Mum was broadcast as a Radio 4 play in 2012. Her writing - essays, articles and non-fiction - has appeared in many publications.

She has edited and guest edited several publications. She is the co-editor of two recent anthologies and a special issue of Wasafiri magazine: Black Britain: Beyond Definition, which celebrated and reevaluated the black writing scene in Britain. In 2012 she was Guest Editor of the winter issue of Poetry Review, Britain's leading poetry journal, in its centenary year. Her issue, Offending Frequencies, featured more poets of colour than had ever previously been published in a single issue of the journal, as well as many female, radical, experimental and outspoken voices.

She is also a literary critic for the national newspapers such as the Guardian and Independent and has judged many literary awards including the National Poetry Competition, TS Eliot Prize, Orange First Novel Award and the Next Generation Poet's List. In 2012 she was Chair of the Caine Prize for African Fiction and Chair of The Commonwealth Short Story Prize. That year she also founded the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. She is Reader in Creative Writing at Brunel University and designed and teaches the anuual six month Guardian¬-University of East Anglia 'How to Tell a Story' fiction course in London.

She has toured widely in the UK and since 1997 she has accepted invitations to take part in over 100 international visits as a writer. She gives readings and delivers talks, keynotes, workshops and courses and she has held visiting fellowships and professorships.

Bernardine Evaristo was born in Woolwich, south east London, the fourth of eight children, to an English mother and Nigerian father. Her father was a welder and local Labour councillor and her mother a schoolteacher. She was educated at Eltham Hill Girls Grammar School, the Rose Bruford College of Speech & Drama, and Goldsmiths, University of London, where she earned a PhD in Creative Writing. She spent her teenage years acting at Greenwich Young People's Theatre. She lives in London with her husband.

Product Description


Evaristo remains an undeniably bold and energetic writer, whose world-view is anything but one-dimensional (Sunday Times )

One of Britain's most innovative authors . . . Bernardine Evaristo always dares to be different (New Nation )


`Novelists are irresistably drawn to the `what if' game. But it has seldom been done on the scale of Bernardine Evaristo's astonishing new novel which takes one of the great horrors of history and turns it on its head. ...Evaristo is a poet and the novel is full of playful anachronisms, many of them based around language and emotions that sound decidedly 20th century. But it's also a satire, almost Swiftian in its imaginative leaps, in which humour and suffering are effortlessly intermingled. ...This brilliant novel will fulfil her purpose of making readers view the transatlantic slave trade with fresh eyes.'

`'Writers messing around with history is nothing new, but the way that Evaristo entirely inverts the story of slavery is mesmerising. She has imagined the world with linguistic flourishes, creating a tale that is satirical as well as moving.'

'I thought this was an absolutely amazing book...a reminder of what great literature is about.'
Dreda Say Mitchell, Critic

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By purplepadma VINE VOICE on 14 Jun 2011
Format: Hardcover
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 bound for the New World. The reader knows from the outset that this is not alternate history of our own universe, because the author has included a map showing Aphrika in the North, Europa in the South, and the Carribean islands unchanged, but renamed the West Japanese Islands.

The idea is interesting, and has been explored by other authors (such as Mallory Blackman, in whose Noughts and Crosses series it is taken for granted that the dominant culture is that of black people, and white people are treated as inferior). Unfortunately, in White Roots the execution of the idea is rather muddled and extremely illogical. For a start, why is there any need to have altered geography? The slave/sugar trade triangle could just have easily worked with geography unchanged, but Africa as the pivotal point of power. Linguistically, the novel is very puzzling; the slaves speak a kind of Patois, but the author seems to assume that in the White Roots universe there would be little difference from real life Caribbean Patois.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Feb 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Blonde Roots we are introduced to an alternative reality, where black Africans from the kingdom of Ambossa have colonised the new world and shipped over enslaved 'backwards' white Europeans. It's a good idea, and Evaristo makes it work well. Rather than just reversing the skin colours as some writers have done when embarking on similiar ventures, she also shows how the traditions of African society are perceived as the 'developed' and more sophisticated way of life, whilst the European customs and habits are seen as laughable and barbaric. Evaristo does this very effectively and her upside down world is entirely plausible.

There are great touches throughout, such as the secret Christian communion slipped into the lively voodoo ceremony held in the slaves' quarter, or the horror of the slave trader on arriving in Europe and seeing the barbaric natives with their hilarious clothing, primitive square houses, and monotonous language 'more like the mooing of cattle'. These factors make this is much more interesting and thought provoking book than a simple colour change could.

As well as the brilliance of the imaginative aspects, it is also a powerful and often graphically horrible account of the brutality of humans against humans. Whilst this story is fictional, I have no doubt that many of the events in this story really did happen during the real slave trade. The account of the awfulness of conditions on the slave ship is particularly vivid and, I suspect, more true to reality than many would want to believe. Likewise the barmy justifications of the 'civilised' people for their enslavement of the 'barbarians' are I'm sure an echo of the same excuses used by white people in the days of slavery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
The horrific trans-Atlantic slave trade that brought so many Africans to the Western Hemisphere has been the subject of innumerable scholarly articles, books, and histories, as well as a great deal of fiction and film -- much of it quite compelling. But just when you think a subject is exhausted, along comes a new talent with a fresh perspective, and for better or for worse, that's exactly what this book is. The author has basically taken the races and flipped them, so that feudal Europeans are the ones captured by cruel "Aphrikan" slave traders and put to work at home and in the trans-Atlantic "West Japanese" sugar cane plantations. (It should be noted that in addition to remixing global geography, the story isn't set in any particular time period, as it mixes elements of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.)

The result is a relatively engaging satire that forces the reader to revisit the physical and psychic horrors of slavery through a different skin pigment. The first part of the story follows English farmgirl Doris, who is plucked from the woods by slavers, packed aboard a slave ship, and manages to rise to a relatively lofty position in the service of a wealthy family living in the Aphrikan capital of Londolo before plucking up the nerve to try and escape via an Underground Railroad (literally). Next is an overly long interlude comprised of the strident eugenics-based writings of her owner, who expounds on the various physical and mental flaws of the "whyte" race. This section is kind of one note struck over and over, and it's hard not to feel like it was more fun to write than to read. The story then returns to Doris, who ends up on a West Indian-type plantation with a cast of colorful characters, including some from her past.
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