A stunning, expansive chronicle of Suriname from Astrid Roemer, whose On a Woman’s Madness is a finalist for the 2023 National Book Award.
It’s 1966 in Suriname, on the Caribbean coast of South America, and the long shadow of colonialism still hangs over the country. Grandma Bee is the proud, cigar-smoking matriarch of the Vanta family, which is an intricate mix of Creole, Maroon, French, Indian, Indigenous, British, and Jewish backgrounds. But Grandma Bee is dying, a cough has settled deep in her lungs.
The approaching end has her thinking about the members of her family she’s lost, and especially one of her favorite granddaughters, Heli, who has been sent away to the Netherlands because of an affair with her white teacher. Ultimately, there’s only one question Bee must answer: What is a family? If her descendants are spread across the world, don’t look similar, don’t share a heritage, and don’t even know each other, what bond will they have once she has died?
A moving portrait of a woman finding peace in the legacy that is her daughters and granddaughters, Off-White, keenly translated by Lucy Scott and David McKay, is also a searing and complex portrait of male violence, the legacy of colonialism, and a dismantling of what it means to be “white”. Written after a nearly 20-year break from publishing, Off-White is another masterpiece from the only Surinamese author to win the prestigious Dutch Literature Award.