I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde follows Tituba from her home in Barbados to Salem Village and back to Barbados. In the book and in real life, Tituba was a slave owned by Reverend Samuel Parris. She was the first person accused of witchcraft at the very beginning of the Salem Witch Trials.
She was actually married to John Indian and had one child. However, he betrayed Tituba during the witch trials by accusing her and others of being witches.
Since she confessed, she was not burned at the stake and later released from prison. Tituba stayed longer in prison than necessary because Parris refused to pay for her prison fines. History does not paint Parris in a good light. He’s cruel and greedy and that is how people will see him for eternity.
Since there is not very much information about Tituba, Conde does take some creative license in telling this story. No one is really sure where she went after her release from prison. In the book, her fines are paid for by Benjamin Cohen d’Azevedo. She works for him until Puritans set his house on fire.
After the house fire, she becomes a free woman and makes the journey back to Barbados. Tituba has always been a healer. She learned from Mama Yaya, her surrogate mother and spiritual herbalist. When she returns to Barbados, Tituba continues to heal people.
This book was translated from French by Richard Philcox. It’s an excellent book in any language. I spent more money on a used edition of this book than on the last five years of my used book collection. It’s not cheap but it’s worth the money.
Some of the language is not kind to people of color. I do feel conflicted that the book is so well written but also uses derogatory terms. How do you guys feel about historical fiction that uses derogatory terms? What is acceptable and what isn’t?
If you like stories about witches or the Salem Witch Trials, you might enjoy this book. If you are a Puritan, you probably won’t like this book.
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