Judged from this perspective, Carretta has produced a clear, well-researched, and at times quite interesting biography.
The most interesting and successful chapters were the last three, chapters 12 through 14: “Making a Life,” “The Art of the Book,” and “A Self-Made Man.” These chapters are devoted to the years immediately preceding and following the publication of .
Equiano’s narrative plays a key role in such a narrative, and so his birth takes on special importance.
(University of Georgia, 2005) extends Carretta’s research on Equiano’s origins to provide the first scholarly biography in over thirty years of the man known in the Western world for most of his life as Gustavus Vassa.
Biographies pose a critical problem for any engaged, thoughtful twenty-first century scholar in that they rely on a notion of identity that has been challenged by a host of critical analyses interrogating the modern emergence of the very idea of the “individual.” Carretta avoids such issues entirely here.
Instead, he simply takes modern biographical conventions at face value and uses them to tell the story of Equiano’s life and the development of his distinct and particular identity.
, a scholarly firestorm erupted over the question of this former slave’s place of birth.
This is not the first time Equiano’s origins have been questioned.
Who doesn’t want to believe, after all, in the idea of individual identity on which such narratives depend?
Unfortunately, I did not find this book to qualify as especially engaging.