Calligraphy of the Witch
Calligraphy of the Witch: A Novel
Calligraphy of the Witch
Alicia Gaspar de Alba
Mexico, 1683. When Concepción Benavidez flees her indenture from the convent of San Jerónimo in Mexico City and sets out to join a band of refugee slaves along with her friend Aléndula, the two are captured by buccaneers in Vera Cruz led by the famed Laurens-Cornille de Graaf, who is running a slave- and provisions ship headed for New England. Aléndula dies on the journey, but Concepción, upon arrival, is renamed Thankful Seagraves and sold to a Boston merchant, Nathaniel Greenwood, who plans to have her care for his crippled father-in-law and manage the Old Man’s chicken farm. Delirious, half-starved, and terrified by her ordeal on board the Neptune, during which the Captain raped her repeatedly, Thankful Seagraves gives birth to a daughter, coveted by Rebecca, Nathaniel's fallow wife, and over the next eight years struggles to adapt herself into English colonial life. With great difficulty she attempts to raise her daughter in the faith and language of New Spain and thus forge a connection between herself and the girl even while Rebecca slowly turns Hanna against her. Like her friend, Tituba Indian, Concepción is a perpetual outsider—her mixed-race looks as well as her accent and her Catholic background set her apart—and before long she gets swept up in the hysteria of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, culminating in a shocking accusation by her own daughter, who renounces her mother and declares her a witch.

Book Details


  • Fiction
  • Historical Fiction

Age Level: 

  • 12 and up
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Concepion Benavidez has lived in Mexico for all of her life. When she leaves the convent where she is indentured for a better opportunity, a slave ship headed to Salem, Massachusetts, captures Concepion and her friend. Concepion's friend dies during the journey to Salem, the captain of the ship sexually abuses her, and she is almost starved to death. Needless to say, when Concepion arrives at Salem, she is a very different person than she was. Concepion's name is changed to Thankful Seagraves, and sold to Nathaniel Greenwood, who has her take care of his father-in-law.

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