Hottentot Venus by Barbara Chase-Ribound book review
The novel Hottentot Venus by Barbara Chase-Ribound is an incredible book that has won several critical praises though its ability of bringing to light hidden truths. Racism and sexism in the hearts of the European imperialism cannot be well discussed without paying attention to the physical difference of ordinary persons. The author uses a real female to discusses his arguments and build his themes. Sarah Baartman the novel’s protagonist was born in South Africa in the year 1789 and at the age of twenty she was taken to London by an English surgeon who had promised to assist her become famous. Instead she was forced to parade naked before a rude British crowd for an exhibition. She faced cruelty and torture which even resulted to detaining by British abolitionists. After a short period Baartman find herself in the midst of another humiliating event when she is sold to a French circus in 1814 by her keeper who was also supposedly her husband. After her sale she was moved to Paris to participate in an exotic animal circus. It is at this point she is also forced to assist in a sideshow sensation and she becomes known as “Hottentot Venus”. According to the story, medical experts and top scientists felt that her prominent buttocks were a perfect example of the primitive evolution. In this saga that ranges from Capetown, London to Paris and back to Africa the author condemns the certain aspects of evocation since they act as icons of scientific racism, brutality, ugliness, exploitation and sexism.
The book is opened by a brief explanation of how the name Hottentot Venus came to be. The name came from the Portuguese after they discovered KhoeKhoe nation located in South African eastern coast. The Portuguese found the Dutch community in this nation and nicknamed then “the Hottento” which means stutterer in Dutch because they felt language consisted of so many unrelated sounds. The book further continues to the first chapter which begins which Sarah birthday which was on January 1816. It at this same day that it is disclosed that Sarah is suffering a serious fever and chest problem. Though her illness seems serious she still has to continue looking strong under the leadership to the white. Later chapters then begin to portray the various unfair treatment and discriminations that Sarah is facing in the hands of white leadership. Even though Sarah is ill and lost both of her parents in the hands of the white or the British rule, she still has to face many more challenges. She is sold to a white master by her aunt who at the time acted as her guardian and is nick named Saartjie. She is also betrayed by her supposedly husband by selling her to the Heinrich. The author uses several life situations though his protagonist Sarah to show how race and sexism is wide spread and common cause of many problems today.
In making an overall review of Hemings work in this book we can strongly say that the themes of racism and sexism are widely discussed. The author uses a real character specifically a female middle aged woman Sarah who is later referred to as Saartjie to show how these two themes are wide spread in almost all societies. Sarah is seen to move from one society to the other and facing related problems. Back in her home she is forced to undergo certain strict traditions just because she is a woman and had to get married. In her family house her aunt constantly looks as a source of wealth just because she is female and thus supposed to act as a source of wealth. The author goes further to portray that there are differences in how racism and sexism is practiced by using slavery and blue collar jobs practiced in developed areas such as London and Paris. But in all cases the end results of these acts are similar since they are end up abusing human rights, affects personal extreme and besides degrades the value of human life.
However, the author can improve on this great literature book to a credible academic reference when discussing these two themes; racism and sexism by focusing on a specific line of racism. For instance, the author can select scientific racism which includes illiteracy in education and technology or focus on feminism. The benefit of this recommendation is to ensure the author researchers and provides more important and accurate data on the narrow topic.
Chase-Ribound, Barbara Hottentot Venus New York, Doubleday, 2003