Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Slave Narratives and Kate McCafferty's "Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl"

I just finished reading Kate McCafferty's Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl, a fictional slave narrative about an Irish child forced into slavery by her English overlords. After reading the autobiographical narratives Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass   by Frederick Douglass for two classes that I am currently taking, I thought it would be interesting to read a slave narrative from the seldom-studied point of view of a white European slave, captured, put on a ship, and forced into indentured servitude in much the same way as hundreds of thousands of Africans were. The crucial difference? The possibility of freedom. Although this work is fictional, I thought it captured the realities of what it may have been like to be a female Irish slave in the caribbean very well.

On the tiny caribbean island of Barbados during the mid 1600's, Cot Daley faces many of the same struggles that a black slave woman would have as she copes with coercion into the role of breeder and mate, while at the same time she superficially benefits by being one step higher on the social hierarchical ladder than the Africans by whose sides she works: if she behaves, she can eventually go home. While this possibility remains a ray of hope for Cot, she must still confront the alienation that comes with bearing the same shade of skin as her captors and the captors of the entire slave community. Her tale is not only one of survival, but one of trying to find a place and home within a community that is resistant to accepting her as one of their own.

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