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Answering the question of history
BY ELLEN SCHWARTZ
ESIEDUGYAN'S new novel, Washington Black,
started out as a completely different story
Initially, she was writing about the Tichborne
trial, a famous legal case from the Victorian era,
in which an imposter claimed to be the long-lost
heir of a wealthy English family. While research
ing the story, Edugyan discovered that the chief
witness in the case was a former slave.
"That man grabbed me, Edugyan says. "I
wondered: Howwould he build a life after his bru-
tal past as a slave? His story took over andbecame
the centre of the book."
Born and raised in Calgary to Ghanaian
immigrant parents, Edugyan, a Costco member,
was drawntowritingat a young age. "Iwas ahuge
reader," she explains. "Every Saturday, my father
took me to the library, where I could take out as
many books as I liked-a real treasure."
In herteens, she began to think about writing
as a career. At first she planned to focus on jour-
nalism, since, she says with a laugh, "it's hard to Al along, Black searches for connection, a
make a living as aliterarywriter, and I knew that feeling that he belongs to something-afamily, a
journalists got paid." However, the creative urge country, a past. "He wants to take control of his
prevailed, and she acquired bachelor's and mas own life, not have his future dictated by the pairn
ter's degrees in creative writing at the University ofhis past," Edugyan says. "At the end, he realizes
of Victoria and Johns Hopkins University. She that what he has been searchingforis inside him
published her first novel, The Second Life of and that it can't be granted by someone else." In
Samuel Tyne, in 2004. The story concerns a taking Black on this journey, Edugyan answers
Ghanaian civil servant living in Calgary, who the question that originally sparked the book.
inherits a family estate in rural Alberta and tries
toconvince his wife and daughters to move there. t slave trade but also on science and inven
Edugyan did extensive research, not onlyon
Edugyan is best known for her second novel, tions of the period. "This was atime, just before
Half Blood Blues. Written while she was a writ the Industrial Revolution, when people were
er-in-residence in Stuttgart, Germany, and pub mapping and discovering the world. The erawas
lished in 2011, the book focuses on a multiracial fullof possibility and wonder-atthe marvels of
jazz musician in World War II-era Europe whois nature and at the potential of machines."
abducted by the Nazis. Half Blood Blues won the chuckles: "The research was so fascinating, I
Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Man could have gone on forever. It was hard not to put
Booker Prize, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction everything I had learned in the story."
Prize and the Governor General's Award, among The mother of two young children, Edugyarn
A NOVEL : i anv
Esi Edugyan's Washington Black
(Item #2019888) is available in
all Costco warehouses.
admits that it is a challenge to balance writin
Washington Black goes farther back in time with family life. She likes to read for an hour or
to tell the story ofa young field slave on a sugar so-"to get my headinto a writingspace"-before
plantation in Barbados in the 1830s. Black's life headinginto her home office, where she works at
changes when Christopher Wilde, the brotherof a treadmill desk. "Walking and writing frees the
the owner, chooses him to be his assistant. Wilde thoughts," s
is a keen naturalist, explorer, inventor and abo-
Edugyan is currently feeling out different
ionist, and soon Black is learning to make ideas for her next novel, although she hasn't set
detailed scientific drawings
launch a newfangled flying machine: a hot-air
balloon. When awhite man is killed, the pairflee ng another gripping Esi Edugyan novel in the
Barbados, and Black eventually journeys from near future. C
the eastern United States to the icy Canadiarn
Arctic, and from the streets of London to the Ellen
deserts of Morocco.
tled on one yet. Notto worry. Her readers can be
sure that another question will grab her, inspir
and helping to
Schwartz is the author of17 books for children
and teens. She lives in Burnaby, British Columbia.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 The Costco Connection 27