After 525 years, the traditional literature recounting the history of Columbus’s epic voyage and first encounters with Native Americans remains Eurocentric, focused principally—whether pro- or anti-Columbus—on Columbus and the European perspective. A historical novel, Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold now dramatizes these events from a bicultural perspective, fictionalizing the beliefs, thoughts, and actions of the Native Americans who met Columbus side by side with those of Columbus and other Europeans, all based on a close reading of Columbus’s Journal, other primary sources, and anthropological studies.
The drama alternates among three historic Taíno chieftains—Caonabó, Guacanagarí, and Guarionex—and a Taíno youth Columbus captures, Spain’s Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and Columbus himself. It depicts the education, loves and marriages, and other life experiences each brought to the unforeseen encounters and then their astonishment, fears, and objectives in 1492 and 1493. The focus includes the Taíno “discovery” of Europe, when Columbus hauls the captive and other Taínos back to Spain, as well as the chieftains’ reactions to the abusive garrison of seamen Columbus leaves behind in the Caribbean. Throughout, the Taíno protagonists are neither merely victims nor statistics, but personalities and actors comparable to the European, and their side of the story is forcefully told.
The novel weaves a fascinating tapestry of scenes and dialogues from the historical record, often incorporating text from primary sources. Isabella plots her dynastic marriage, argues with Ferdinand over who’s supreme, and wages war to expand their kingdoms. The chieftains take multiple wives to consolidate their rules, vie to marry the beautiful Anacaona, and battle Caribe raiders. An unknown Columbus conceives a fanciful voyage, marries advantageously to promote it, and yet suffers an agonizing decade of ridicule and rejection. Guacanagarí rescues Columbus when the Santa María sinks, but Caonabó questions Guacanagarí’s generosity, and Guarionex is vexed, having witnessed a religious prophecy of Taíno genocide inflicted by a “clothed people.” Columbus teaches his captive Christianity, initiating the following centuries’ collision of Christianity with Native American religion and spirits.
The Taíno stories depict both events known to have occurred (e.g., the chieftains’ ascensions to power, the prophecy of genocide, the captive’s baptism in Spain) and known practices or experiences (e.g., inter-island canoe travel, a hurricane, a Caribe wife raid, a batey game). The Isabella and Ferdinand stories include their establishment of the Inquisition, subjugation and Christianization of the Canary Islands, completion of the Reconquista, and expulsion of the Jews from Spain, illustrating European doctrines of conquest, enslavement, and involuntary conversion and how the sovereigns ruled over Old World peoples before encountering Native Americans. The Columbus stories portray his pre-1492 sailing experiences and the evolution of his world outlook, and his thoughts during the encounters embody the concepts underlying the European subjugation of Native Americans over the following centuries. Stark societal differences are illustrated, with the Europeans practicing African slavery and the Taínos sharing food as communal property.
A Sources section briefly discusses interpretations of historians and anthropologists contrary to the author’s presentation, as well as issues of academic disagreement.
The result is a gripping, personal, documented, and bicultural portrayal of the voyage that reshaped the course of world history, written at its 525th anniversary.
|Publisher:||All Persons Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
List of Maps and Illustrations
I: 1455–1460, CHILDHOOD, LESSONS, LEGACY
II: 1460s, YOUTH
III: 1470s, ASCENSION
IV: 1480–1485, AMBITION
V: 1485–1490, FAITH
VI: 1490–AUGUST 2, 1492, DESTINY
VII: CROSSING THE SEA OF DARKNESS
VIII: LUCAYAN ISLANDS
XI: NORTHERN CROSSING
XII: LISBON TO BARCELONA
XIII: SPRING 1493
XIV: SUMMER 1493
Participants, Taíno Spirits, Popes, and Conventions, with family tree for European Royalty
Glossary of Taíno Words
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Arya Fomonyuy for Readers' Favorite Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold by Andrew Rowen is a phenomenal historical novel that transports the reader back to the 15th century and brings them into contact with some of the historical personalities that have shaped history. The story is centered on the epic journeys of Columbus and his first encounters with the Native Americans. In this spellbinding book, the author recreates the world as Columbus must have known it, allowing the cultural shock to come out powerfully, exploring the reactions of local chiefs upon their encounter with Columbus and his European companions. Readers will encounter great characters, people with their own cultures and world views, characters like Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and a host of others. In this book, readers will follow the adventures of Columbus, his exploits, and his abject solitude as well. Few authors recreate historical worlds and craft characters who feel so real, even flawed, and who are imbued with a strange humanity, and Andrew Rowen has done just that. Readers will enjoy the tension and the conflicts developed at different levels of the story. I particularly enjoyed the way the soul of the Native Americans comes across the narrative. The characters are intriguing, each reflecting a rich culture and a historical background that will excite the reader. There is no doubt that Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold is well-researched, intelligently plotted, and narrated with the voice of a master. Through fiction, the author allows readers to look at history from the perspective of those often considered conquerors. This is an awesome read for fans of historical fiction with strong personages. I couldn’t stop reading from the moment I opened the first page.