Title: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Book Beginnings quote:
I might have been ten or eleven -- I cannot say for certain -- when my first master died.
"The boy is my property." This the master said without even a glance at me.
Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born. When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.
He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.
What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.
From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again--and asks the question, what is true freedom? (Publisher)
Review: Washington Black was a book club selection for a recent meeting. The book, a Booker Prize finalist in 2018, tells a slavery story never told before, using an imagining of "what if" slaves who obtain freedom were actually treated like equal human beings with whites and were allowed to claim credit for their contributions to science and inventions. These were thought-provoking ideas and worthy topics for discussion and in assistance to helping me become a more empathetic person toward the plights and past histories of BIPOC people. I did find the book frustrating at times, however, especially around tricky aspects of transition. How did Wash get from here to there? There were so many settings and characters, it was hard to keep track of all the details. How did society, as we understand it from history, allow for an interracial couple to become sexually active? What's with the ending? Is it a new beginning, a suicide attempt, or just a walk around outside? Though I was critical of some of the book's problems, by in large it was a very valuable read, one I would recommend for any book club looking for an interesting topic to discuss.
Trigger warning: the first part of the book, in particular, dwells on the horrors of slavery and the complete and utter disregard many white owners had for the lives of their slaves. To a person, ever member of the club mentioned how upsetting it was and worried that readers might be so put off they would want to stop reading.
Washington Black discussion questions.
SOTH Gals Book Club, July 2022