NYS Writers Institute, February 5, 2009
Her newest book is “Blonde Roots” (2008), a perceptive, unflinching and often brutal counter-historical novel that poses the question, “What if black Africans had enslaved white Europeans?” “Blonde Roots” follows the story of Doris Scagglethorpe, the daughter of an English cabbage farmer who is kidnapped while playing hide-and-seek with her sisters in the fields near their home, and subsequently shipped across the ocean and sold into slavery. Renamed Omorenomwara, Doris nurtures dreams of escape while enduring the horrors of slavery at the hands of black masters and mistresses.
In a starred review, “Publishers Weekly” said, “British novelist Evaristo delivers an astonishing, uncomfortable and beautiful alternative history… [her] intellectually rigourous narrative constantly surprises….” The BBC Radio reviewer called it, “absolutely amazing... a reminder of what great literature is about.”
“Blonde Roots” is Evaristo’s first novel written exclusively in prose. Her earlier works include “Lara” (1997), a novel-in-verse that traces the roots of a mixed race family over 150 years; “The Emperor’s Babe” (2001), another verse novel that tells the story of a Sudanese girl living in London during Roman times; and “Soul Tourists” (2005), a “novel-with-verse” that follows a mismatched pair of black lovers as they investigate forgotten corners of black European history on a road tour through Continental Europe.
“The Emperor’s Babe” was named a “Book of the Year” by three of the UK’s leading newspapers, including the London “Times,” the “Daily Telegraph” and the “Independent Sunday.” The London “Sunday Times” called it, “a fast, exciting read… a modern work of art that uses the literary traditions with such light assurance that everything seems new.” “Lara” received the Writer’s Award of the Arts Council of England and the EMMA Award for Best Novel and was named a “Book of the Year” by the London “Daily Telegraph” and “New Statesman” (UK).
The founder of The Complete Works, a new mentoring program for poets of color in the United Kingdom, Evaristo is also a fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.