This is a short novel from 1992 by the Guadeloupan writer Maryse Conde, writing in French. I found this in a Little Free Library and wanted to read Conde because she’s won some recent big awards and she’s clearly in the consciousness for potential Nobel laureate. This novel is a retelling of the Tituba story, famous for the Salem Witch Trials, and of course famous for being one of the characters in The Crucible, more well known to Americans than the actual history of the Witch Trials.
This novel is very straight forward. It’s stark as well, in its depiction of sexual violence and slavery and the deep injustices and trauma endemic to both. We are provided with a more fully realized (allowed to be realized) version of Tituba, who is the narrator of the story. We also get a more clear picture of the Salem Witch Trials from the perspective of someone who experiences the injustices of the events, but without the kinds of misunderstanding of injustice. What I mean by this is that she’s incredibly familiar with how the world works, so there’s not the shock of events so much as the clear understanding of what’s to come, and how she will be blamed for everything. We also learn that she’s fighting for significantly more important things than protecting her reputation. In The Crucible, John Proctor refuses to name names and sign a confession in order to protect his name, which is a little rich, since he’s a liar and cheater in the play, throwing Abigail under the bus to protect himself. But Tituba learns early on that survival (and finding the things worth surviving for) is essential and does what she needs to do to survive. John Proctor is not in this book, but it’s important to remind you that he protected his name, but died, leaving his wife a widow and his children orphans.