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I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem Paperback – January 3, 1994

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of the highly recommended intergenerational saga Tree of Life (Fiction Forecasts, June 29) moves from her native Guadeloupe to colonial New England in this potent novel. Revising the legend of a slave woman accused of practicing witchcraft and imprisoned in Salem, Mass., in 1692, Conde freely imagines Tituba's childhood and old age, endows her with what Davis calls a contemporary social consciousness, and allows her to narrate the tale. Her pointedly political story indicts the Puritans' racism and hypocrisy and their contemporary manifestations. Conceived when an English sailor rapes an Ashanti captive on the slave ship Christ the King , Tituba grows up in Barbados but follows her beloved, John Indian, into servitude in America when he is sold to minister Samuel Parris. Charged with witchcraft when she heals Parris's wife and daughters, she shares a jail cell with Hester Prynne, who helps her plan her testimony before the Salem judges. Eventually reprieved, Tituba is bought by a Jew, himself persecuted, who frees her and gives her passage to Barbados. At once playful and searing, Conde's work critiques ostensibly white, male versions of history and literature by appropriating them.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In 1692, a Barbadian slave named Tituba was arrested for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. From this historical fact, Conde, an acclaimed writer from Guadeloupe, invents Tituba's life story from childhood to old age. As a child, Tituba sees her mother executed. She is then raised by an old woman who teaches her the African art of healing and communicating with spirits. As a young woman, she is sold to a Puritan minister who leaves Barbados for America. Tituba uses her powers for good purposes, including the healing of her master's family. But her powers are misunderstood by the narrow-minded Puritans, who can only associate witchcraft and the blackness of her skin with evil. Far more than an historical novel, Conde's book makes a powerful social statement about hypocrisy, racial injustice, and feminism through the use of postmodern irony. With a foreword by Angela Davis. Highly recommended.
- Joanne Snapp, Virginia Commonwealth Univ., Richmond
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (January 3, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345384202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345384201
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I truly loved this book, I sat and read it through in one day - and I'll probably read it again. I don't do that often. "I, Tituba" does not claim to be a historical treatise - what it is, is a work of insightful imagination. I've been to Salem, I've read just about everything there is to read about the witch trials, and it is true that Tituba gets short shrift. It's also true that there is probably very little in the way of documentation to prove anything about her. It's the nature of the beast called Slavery. That anyone cared enough to give her form and substance is a tribute to her story and her life. There is far too much invisible history for very similar reasons. May there be more authors with the craft and the wisdom to bring it to life.
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Format: Paperback
I have a hard time reviewing this work: on the one hand, the background of this sometimes lyrical novel provides an insight into one of the slighted players in the infamous Salem Witch Trials of the 17th C, Tituba, the slave of Rev. Samuel Parris; on the other hand, although purporting to 'use' history to explore broader themes, Conde takes many liberties with actual events and other elements, which distort the narrative. To me, the best parts of this novel are the beginning and the end (the created 'history' of Tituba); also, the characterizations of Tituba, John Indian (her husband), Benjamin Cohen (a Jewish immigrant who becomes both Tituba's owner and lover), and the 'spirits' to whom Tituba talks, are vividly drawn. We see Tituba's origin in the brutal rape of her mother, Abena, by a Englishman while she is on her way to Barbados enslaved, and Abena's hanging for rebelling against another sexual assault. This has a profound effect on Tituba, and on her relations with men generally and whites in particular. As the story progresses, factual elements come into play: Tituba ends up in the service of Samuel Parris; she befriends his wife, daughter, and niece, only to be betrayed in Salem by everyone, including her faithless husband; she is found guilty in the trials (of which Conde includes an actual transcript of Tituba's deposition, but little else about the trials themselves). Conde adds fictional narrative to fill out the next stage of Tituba's life: sold to Benjamin Cohen, who frees her; her return to Barbados, where she encounters 'maroons'(free black men and women who live in hiding, plotting to overthrow the white regime) and where she will meet the same end as her mother.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This book was excellent! I was required to read it for an english class in college and I literally couldn't put the book down! I loved the fact that Conde chose to write her novel on Tituba's life before and after the witch trials, instead of just another book about the trials. Conde gave Tituba a personality, character and above all, a life. Before reading this novel, all I knew about Tituba was that she may have been a leading cause in the commencement of the witch trials. I had never thought about what her life was like before she came to the "new" world, or what her life was like after the witch trials. I recommend this book to anyone, even if you don't enjoy reading, Conde will interest even the least of readers.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
*IF YOU READ THIS BOOK AND TAKE IT WORD FOR WORD, YOU WILL NOT LIKE IT. IT IS A CLEAR EXAGGERATION MADE TO CRITICIZE CERTAIN ASPECTS OF SOCIETY*

I understand completely why some people are upset with this book because they expected it to be more factual and realistic. I get that. However, the book is a CLEAR exaggeration. She exaggerates in order to make her criticisms of society blatant. In this book, some of the criticisms that Conde tries to emphasize are:
~Christianity
~Western civilization (America, in particular)
~The stereotypical feminist
~Colonialism
~Patriarchal societies
If you are expecting this to be a historical book, you will utterly HATE it. Because yes, there are historical conflicts. Yes, there are some impossible feats. But it is a FICTION novel.
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Beautifully written, especially taking the persona of Tituba herself, first person, and creating a possible background of this often overlooked real heroine and victim of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and hysteria. I was totally immersed and thought of so many ways to use parts of this book for teaching pieces in American Lit, for rising above trauma and enslavement, for giving incredible possibilities of this demonized victim whose only crime was that she was a slave forced to serve a cruel Puritan minister and who eventually became another female victim of lies of white girls. More importantly, this book allows the reader to fully imagine and value the humanity of real people whom history has destroyed and devalued.
Each teacher of literature, especially American Lit and US History, will find an incredible perspective in relating to the humanity and personal relationship with people from the sidelines who can, through great writing, find voice and power in challenging historic ignorance.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A sad reminder of American history, I, Tituba takes it's readers on a unique journey through the eyes of an African American who falls prey to love, lust, and religion. Some of the "punishments" Tituba goes through is surprising and, at times, disturbing, however it is a must-read for those who want to know what life as an African American was like during the Salem Witch Trials.
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