Title Profile & Character Information

Hottentot Venus

"In Hottentot Venus, Chase-Riboud recounts the tragic life of Sarah Baartman, re-creating in vivid, shocking detail the racism and sexism at the heart of European imperialism." "Born in the colony of Good Hope, South Africa, in 1789, Sarah Baartman was taken to London at the age of twenty by an English surgeon, who promised her fame and fortune. Dubbed the "Hottentot Venus," she was paraded naked in Piccadilly in a freak-show exhibition and subjected to the unabashed stares and crude comments of the British public, which resulted in a sensational trial for her custody by British abolitionists. Soon afterward, however, Baartman's keeper - who may have been her husband - sold her to a French circus owner. In 1814 her new owner took her to Paris as part of an exotic animal circus, to be displayed to French high society. Baartman endured unconscionable exploitation and cruelty as medical experts and leading scientists touted her as an example of primitive evolution because of her genital "apron" and her prominent buttocks." "In an unforgettable saga that ranges from Capetown to St. Helena to London to Paris and back to Africa, Chase-Riboud has created a Dickensian portrait of icon of scientific racism, whose body, sex, and brain were exploited, examined, and dissected to become a synonym for ugliness and brutality - the absolute negation of European beauty, which even today taints our Western concepts of humanity. Sarah, the tragic heroine, evokes nineteenth-century novels of the "other" such as Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Nigger of the Narcissus."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

2004  Black Caucus of the America Library Association Award

NameBaartman, Sarah
South African

TopicsBlack women
Cultural differences
SettingSouth Africa