Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

About the Book:

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George Washington Black, or "Wash," an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master's brother as his manservant. To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning--and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic. What brings Christopher and Wash together will tear them apart, propelling Wash even further across the globe in search of his true self. From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom?

Inspiration for Washington Black:

The story of Washington Black was inspired by the famous Britain case of the Tichborne Claimant. Roger Tichbourne, a British aristocrat from a wealthy family, was shipwrecked and presumed dead. Once his mother received word that a man in Australia claimed to be the lost Tichbourne son, she sent Andrew Bogle, a former slave of the Tichborne plantation, to retrieve the man.

Andrew Bogle’s life with the Tichbornes serves as the point of inspiration for Washington Black, and Esi Edugyan created a narrative of Bogle’s life through the character, George Washington Black, by capturing the complexity of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized as well as depicting the tumultuous transition of becoming your own person.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, "Washington Black is an engrossing hybrid of 19th-century adventure and contemporary subtlety, a rip-roaring tale of peril imbued with our most persistent strife." -- Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"Escape is only the beginning. From the brutal cane plantations of Barbados to the icy wastes of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-filled streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black is the tale –- inspired by a true story –- of a world destroyed and the search to make it whole again." -- 2018 Man Booker Prize Longlist Synopsis.

About the Author:

Esi Edugyan was born  in Calgary, Canada, in 1977. She has degrees from the University of Victoria and Johns Hopkins University and currently lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Esi Edugyan’s Accolades:

Washington Black - Winner, 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize

Half-Blood Blues - Winner, 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize

Finalist, Rogers Writers' Trust Prize for Fiction

Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award for English-Language Fiction

Shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

Reviews & Author Interviews:

“5 Reasons to Read Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black” by Shaazia Ebrahim


“Esi Edugyan on why readers can’t get tired of books about slavery” by Donna Bailey Nurse


“How Esi Edugyan wrote her novel Washington Black — and won her second Scotiabank Giller Prize” by Ryan B. Patrick