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Geographical and Temporal Exile in Maryse Condé's I, Tituba and Tales from the Heart

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Current scholarly discussion defines exile in geographical and cultural terms, characterizing exile as something experienced by individuals separated from their homeland or culture. In her novel I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem, Maryse Condé describes exile in a way that subverts this binary. Tituba is born on Barbados and taken to Salem, Massachusetts. While there, she rejects the two cultural identities available to her—American and African. Instead, she identifies herself in geographical terms with the island of Barbados. Geographical theories of exile would expect Tituba’s feelings of exile to end when she returns to Barbados; however, my reading of I, Tituba suggests that her exile is also temporal in nature. Tituba longs for a future Barbados in which black people are free of white supremacy. This experience of temporal exile is further reflected in Condé’s memoir Tales from the Heart, in which Condé describes her parents’ alignment with French culture, despite not truly belonging thereto. Ultimately, my reading of Condé’s works adds a layer of complexity to existing discussions of exile in African diasporic fictional works.

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