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Kate McCafferty, NYS Writers Institute, 3/13/03: photo by Judy Axenson
Kate McCafferty

NYS Writers Institute, March 13, 2003
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, Campus Center
8:00 p.m. Reading | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

PROFILE
Testimony of an Irish Slave GirlKate McCafferty
's first novel, Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl (2002, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-200183-X), addresses an overlooked chapter in the history of human slavery. In the mid-seventeenth century, tens of thousands of Irish men, women, and children effectively became slaves in the New World. Some were sold into indentured servitude by their parents. Others sold themselves to escape crushing debt. Many were kidnapped by slave traders or the British authorities for profit. Indentured servitude was usually indistinguishable from slavery because the terms of the indenture could be prolonged indefinitely. Most often, the Irish servants were never released. Like many Africans, the Irish endured abuse, floggings, inhuman conditions, and hard labor on plantations in the Caribbean and North America. Some protested by joining with African slaves in rebellion against their masters.

 

"Strange. Compelling. Unexpected. Just when the reviewer believes that there are no truly original first novels, along comes Kate McCafferty's Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl. What makes this novel so compelling is McCafferty's ability to convey the experience of a young girl suddenly placed in an utterly foreign world. Unforgettable." - USA Today

"An engrossing story with an important reminder: that Britain's colonies in the New World were built by the labor of white slaves as well as black." - J.M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace

"[McCafferty] creates a formidable heroine, and recovers, through the alchemy of research and imagination, a voice that history has tended to silence." - The Boston Sunday Globe

Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl is a meticulously researched piece of historical fiction that recounts the story of Cot Daley, abducted from Galway in the year 1651 at the age of 10, and sold and resold among plantation owners in the Caribbean. Cot works as a house servant and a field hand, suffers abuse from her British masters, participates in a mixed race revolt, marries an African rebel, bears his children and is thrown in prison. The books emulates the oral style of true-to-life African-American narratives. "McCafferty's imagined oral record is convincing," asserts the Los Angeles Times, "a harrowing tale about events too long ignored by textbooks." The Boston Globe concurs that McCafferty does a remarkably vivid and thorough job of portraying what life was like for the indentured Irish." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch adds that the book is enlightening not only from a historical standpoint, but also from its psychological insights on the relationships between slaves and their owners."

McCafferty has taught English in colleges all over the world and has published essay, poems and short fiction in a number of publications. Born in the United States, she currently resides in Ireland.

Additional Links:
Times Union Article
Penguin Putnam Reading Guides/Interview
ReadingGroup Guides.com

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.