KR Blog

Unheard and Out of Print

This weekend I read Maryse Conde’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. The novel stretches the facts and the mystery surrounding one of the first people accused during the Salem witch crisis of 1692. The fact is Tituba confessed to being a witch. Her life beyond the crisis remains a mystery. Scholars are even unsure of her race. She may have been an African slave; she may have been an Indian; or she may have been a hybrid, the product of a collision of cultures.

With I, Tituba, Conde means to give voice to an invisible woman. Arthur Miller imagined intriguing possibilities for the accusers, but Tituba is a minor character who disappears for the bulk of the play–and reappears as a madwoman. For Conde, Tituba’s historical and narrative disappearance speaks to the larger problem of women’s voices. Tituba is not the only woman of color whose life simply vanished in the face of the dominant culture’s historical priorities. With the novel, Tituba–and every woman who lived and died as a slave–has her “revenge,” an audience compelled to know more of her story.

That said, on Amazon, one edition of Conde’s novel has limited availability. Another edition is out of stock. Tituba remains in danger of becoming invisible and unheard, a hazy ghost despite her role in one of the most curious moments in American history. It doesn’t seem fair that she can still get lost in the cultural and historical shuffle. Is that the postcolonial curse? Is that the way history works?