Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire– Andrea Stuart
We’re switching it up for this next book, which is taking us to the Caribbean country of Barbados. Instead of the typical types of fiction and nonfiction I have been reading, Sugar in the Blood is a historic profile of the author’s genealogy. She traces her family lineage back generations and discovers how the complexities of slavery and sugar in Barbados have made put her where she is today. This books looks at her ancestors and historical data to presume the possibilities of what life could have looked like. While doing this, Stuart paints a picture of how Barbados looked socially, politically, and economically.
The most interesting characteristic of this book is how it’s not about Stuart’s white or black ancestors but how the two came to mix over time. She starts by finding the oldest ancestor and works her way forward. She breaks the book into three main sections for three main eras of her family. The second section, titled The Plantocrat, is focused on when white and black combined. It is the longest section of the book and clearly the most important.
I want to take a moment to discuss a theme I picked up in the book, which I find important. It’s the idea of women and agency. (Y’all know how much I love women’s empowerment!) It is so fascinating to me that women of color in an oppressive system still found ways to create their own power. In this book, the main example is manipulating their masters and using sex to gain some power. I studied this same concept in an undergraduate class and I found it utterly fascinating. It ties into a larger argument about women’s rights and their place in modern society. Why are these concepts still so distorted?! Thoughts…?
Do I recommend this book? I would recommend this book to a college student or academic interested in learning more about this subject area. Would I recommend this book for readers of my blog or people I talk to on the daily, unfortunately no. It’s a little dense and dry. Does this make me want to travel to Barbados? Sort of. Some of the scenery sounds beautiful. More than anything Sugar in the Blood makes me want to find the places of my ancestors and walk through them.
♦♦Culture Bit: Genealogy♦♦
For this book’s “culture bit,” I wanted to share a quick recap of my own personal genealogy and how I did some investigating.
I looked into my mother’s side for a college course. I started with what my family knew and whatever documents my mom had. Then, I used a free trial of ancestory.com and played around to go as far back as I could. Some of it I could verify through records but after a certain point it was just conjecture. For my maternal grandmother’s side, I traced it back a few generations to relatives that immigrated from Sicily. And for my maternal grandfather, I traced a lineage all the way back to the 1500s in England. Although this couldn’t be verified, it was still amazing to see.
Switching to my dad’s side… Unfortunately, I haven’t looked into as much. However, I do have a personal anecdote. When I visited Greece for a weekend while studying abroad I got to see the exact house my yia yia (grandmother) grew up in. One of the neighbors came out and asked my cousin what we were doing and she explained in Greek. He teared up because he remembered her. It was a beautiful moment that I’ll always cherish. Check out the photos below.
Header Image Picture Credit: @travelforever on Instagram