How to Survive in a World that Doesn’t Want You: Catherine Johnson’s Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2018-04-01 02:33Z by Steven

How to Survive in a World that Doesn’t Want You: Catherine Johnson’s Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo

theracetoread: Children’s Literature and Issues of Race

Karen Sands-O’Connor, Professor
English Department
Buffalo State, The State University of New York, Buffalo, New York

“Princess Caraboo” From an engraving by Henry Meyer, after a picture by Edward Bird[1]

If you Google “Caraboo” sometime, one of the sites that comes up is a hypertext edition of an 1817 account of the life of Mary Wilcocks Baker, also known as the Princess Caraboo ( The mysterious editor of the site (he goes by Mr. X) begins the hypertext with a stern condemnation of the “romantic fictions” that modern versions of Caraboo’s story have presented; and the 1817 account itself acts as a general warning to kind-hearted ladies who take in foreign-looking women. The 1817 version, by John Matthew Gutch, cannot help but admire Mary Wilcocks Baker’s skill at survival and ability to escape detection for so long. At one point he writes, “Cervantes himself could not have expected the realization of so fine a scene” (18). Mr. X, whose other interests include lake monsters in Canada, cannot share in Mr. Gutch’s admiration; he wants to unmask Caraboo as an “imposter”.

This is a copy of Mr. E. Bird’s portrait of “Caraboo” in the clothing that she made as part of her “native” costume. An engraving of this portrait was inserted into John Matthew Gutch’s version of Caraboo’s story, and it is also mentioned in Johnson’s version.

For Mr. X, the reasons why this young woman would have taken on a new identity are irrelevant. To imagine that criminals have honorable motives is nothing more than romantic fiction. But Mr. X—who, interestingly, has himself taken on an alternate identity— has never, if we can take him at “face” value, been a woman. Catherine Johnson, in her recent novel for the young adult audience, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, clearly does know what it is like to be a woman, and she shows in her eponymous character a vulnerable, poor, mixed race girl in Britain’s early 19th century who rises above the situation in which she finds herself to not only survive, but thrive…

Read the entire review here.

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The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United Kingdom on 2018-03-29 01:03Z by Steven

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo

Corgi Childrens
288 Pages
129mm x 198mm x 18mm
Paperback ISBN: 9780552557634
eBook ISBN: 9781448197583

Catherine Johnson

Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2016, this is a very curious tale indeed . . .

Out of the blue arrives an exotic young woman from a foreign land. Fearless and strong, ‘Princess’ Caraboo rises above the suspicions of the wealthy family who take her in.

But who is the real Caraboo?

In a world where it seems everyone is playing a role, could she be an ordinary girl with a tragic past? Is she a confidence trickster? Or is she the princess everyone wants her to be?

This the tale of the ultimate historical hustle, steeped in delectable romance. Whoever Caraboo turns out to be, she will steal your heart . . .

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“My life has gotten white”: Zadie Smith’s Erotics and Ethics of Upward Mobility

Posted in Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2015-11-05 02:20Z by Steven

“My life has gotten white”: Zadie Smith’s Erotics and Ethics of Upward Mobility

C21 Seminar Series 2015-16
Centre for Research in Twenty-first Century Writings
University of Brighton
Falmer Campus
101 Mayfield House
Brighton, United Kingdom
2015-11-09, 17:00-18:30Z

Sarah Brophy, Professor of English and Cultural Studies
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

In a 2011 Guardian article “Where are Britain’s black authors?,” novelist Catherine Johnson discusses the boom in white-authored stories about “other races and cultures,” suggesting that “the words of a white author are a comfortable buffer, a reassurance that nothing in the story will be too shocking, too hard to understand; the author is like you, and you can trust him or her to tell you this story in familiar terms.” Conspicuously absent from Johnson’s discussion is Zadie Smith, the young mixed race author from North London who burst on to the literary scene with a historic advance contract for the manuscript of the acclaimed White Teeth (2000). How does the case of Smith potentially reroute Johnson’s critique? Building on Zadie Smith’s comments in a publicity interview for her latest novel NW (2012) that “my life has gotten white compared to the life I grew up with. Because of the world I work in—it’s white,” this paper considers the dilemmas of upward mobility and whiteness as they have come to bear on Smith, who articulates and negotiates these pressures in a range of life writing modes (especially personal essays and autobiographical fiction)…

For more information, click here.

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