Hottentot Venus: A Novel Hardcover – Nov 4 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1810, Sarah Baartman sailed willingly from her home in South Africa to England with her English husband, believing that fame awaited her as an African dancing queen. Well, she certainly found fame. Based on the true story of a woman who was exhibited as part of a freak show in London's Piccadilly and upon her death at age 27 was publicly dissected in France, this novel by poet, sculptor and novelist Chase-Riboud (Sally Hemings) conveys Sarah's victimization so well that the reader is still cringing after the last page is turned. Sarah herself copes with the harsh reality of her husband's betrayal-she's essentially been sold into slavery-through denial and gin. Her best chance to escape comes when abolitionist Robert Wedderburn intervenes by bringing her contract before a judge in an attempt to rescue her. Sarah, however, won't go along with it, because she doesn't want to return to Good Hope, where her Khoekhoe tribe struggles against colonization. Wedderburn captures the reader's frustration when he tells Sarah: "You are the unwitting collaborator of your own exploitation, agent of your own dehumanization!" Indeed, there are many tough scenes to endure, as Europeans endlessly ridicule her body and elongated genitals (mutilated as part of a tribal ritual) and examine her as a scientific curiosity. What makes the story, and Sarah's life, more bearable are the tender scenes with Alice, Sarah's English governess who stays with her and truly cares for her. Kudos to Chase-Riboud for exploring this story of oppression and for humanizing a woman who was virtually regarded as an animal, according to the ideology of the day.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
As she did in her best-selling Sally Hemings (1979), Chase-Riboud dramatizes a true story. This time, she goes back to the Dutch colonies of 1810 to recount the life of Sarah Baartman, a South African woman who was coerced into becoming an exotic dancer by two parasitic men. Having already lost her family in the Dutch and English massacres, Sarah faced certain death by staying in South Africa. Unfortunately, her journey toward a better life results in another kind of exploitation--this time on the freak show circuit in London. Forced into a cage in African garb, which allows the crowd of onlookers to intimately inspect her body, Sarah is put on public display as an example of a primitive oddity. Sadly, the dehumanization of Sarah did not stop with her death. In 1816, her dissected body was exhibited in a French Museum. In 2002, after a long legal battle, her remains were finally laid to rest in South Africa. Praise to Chase-Riboud for her total immersion in the spirit of Sarah Baartman. Elsa Gaztambide
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
The sad thing however is that "scientific racism" still exists and with the current trends in the globalisation process ,the identity of humanity itself is stake.For starters,African women have been confined to the status of "permanent potential" as our male chauvinst states tinker around with livelihoods and psyches.As in Sara's day, the judeo-christian ideology still underpins postcolonial identity.The crusade advanced by the entertainement industry,through the commodification of women by the corporate/patriarchal alliance of Western companies peddling products banned in their contries of origin and miseducated African males,pours scorn on natural African skin hues, facial features, body shape and hair type.Women are walking all over Africa with orange peel skin,hair on the chin and bald heads under wigs not to speak of kidney and other complications as husbands or prospective partners insist on certain looks thus inflicting chemical, hormonal and biological warfare,a fate not far different from the humiliation visited on Sara.The patriachal and racist attitudes of centuries past are still with us.
Sara's body was returned to South Africa in 2002.The dignity of the African woman is still elusive and so:A luta continua!
The truth is that all women of all ethnicities from Europeaner's to African's to ... to varying degrees can be genetically disposed to such attributes such as steatopygia to elongated minora, it was just far more common among the Khoisan. But, I just wanted to point out this wasn't due to mutilation or tribal ritual. Also, whether Baartman left of her own accord or not, is open to debate, I doubt to many people would willingly enslave themselves and certainly not to the extent that Saaratji endured, this was after all still the years of atlantic slave trade.Read more ›
Barbara Chase-Riboud brings to life the heartwrenching tale of Sarah Baartman by combining factual, historical data with gripping story telling. In HOTTENTOT VENUS, Chase-Riboud steps back in time to the ninteenth-century and recreates a world steeped in sexism, and the ideal of European superiority. Told in the voice of several of the main characters against the backdrop of slums, courtrooms and medical facilities the reader is emmersed in the thoughts and attitudes of the day. There are shockingly vivid scences describing what Sarah endures that will leave readers angry and sadden. However, the ending will give a since of long overdue justice for Sarah. A truly haunting read, one that will stay with you long after the book is read. I recommend the novel to all.
Reviewed by L. Raven James
of The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
Most recent customer reviews
..this book should be on the reading list in every high school,how else are we to change the cruelty and racism that is inflicted and promoted by governments down thru history,the... Read morePublished on July 4 2004 by Me
I stayed up late last night finishing a truly tremendously fine book: Hottentot Venus by Barbara Chase-Riboud. Read morePublished on June 25 2004 by KatPanama
Hottenton Venus was quite superb! What a depressing part of history to know that this South African woman Sarah Baartman was victimized emotionally, physically and fiancially, by... Read morePublished on May 19 2004 by Therese Madison
Barbara Chase-Riboud delivers a truly extraordinary piece of fiction based on the true story of Sarah Baartman dubbed the Hottentot Venus. Read morePublished on Jan. 13 2004 by njeri214
It's an embarrassment to humankind that this is based on a true story. Barbara Chase-Riboud must have spent years just doing research to write this, and it really shows. Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2004
Chase-Riboud's narrative about Sarah Bartman a.k.a the Hottentot Venus is compelling reading. Bartman's story was completely unknown to me. Now she is unforgettable. Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2004
The Hottentot Venus was a wonderful book, one that pulled me in and had me sneaking reading time whenever possible. Read morePublished on Jan. 4 2004
Wonderful book that was rich in detail and humanity. Yes the book is written without quotations and for some readers this seems to be proving difficult. Read morePublished on Dec 24 2003