CHINWE by Peter Burchard


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Freeze-dried Roots, feminist style. The idyllic life of her West African village (""Breakfast in front of her family's hut was one of the pleasures of the day"") ends for Chinwe when her beloved Azu is killed and she and little brother Odili are captured in a slavers' raid. Along with other villagers--including Azu's hot-headed brother Obi--they are transported to the coast, held in an island compound, and loaded aboard ship: the familiar progression of events, less than usually harrowing in Burchard's sententious phrasings and stilted dialogue. The edge is further dulled by the presence of a sympathetic white doctor (who immediately tends Odili's broken leg) and a humane first mate (who saves Chinwe's life in a storm), while a sneaky cook of mixed blood (""How sad to be a mixture of peoples. How sad to split one's loyalties"") adds an incongruous racist note. Chinwe meanwhile emerges as a leader; and holding the rash Obi in check, she masterminds a successful captive uprising. But the ship reaches America anyhow, and we last see Chinwe, on St. Simon's Island, ""certain. . . that one day she and Odili would be free."" A travesty.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1979
Publisher: Putnam