Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

I don't know how any of us in the twenty-first century can begin to comprehend what it was like to have been forced into slavery.  Sure, we complain about being overworked and underpaid, but for the most part we are able to move wherever and whenever we choose.  We are free. 

Aminata Diallo's story, as told in Lawrence Hill's fantastic novel The Book of Negroes (known in the United States as Someone Knows My Name) is one that is sad, shocking, and yet inspiring at the same time.  Kidnapped from her village in Africa as a young girl, Aminata endures the long walk to the ship that will take her across the ocean, that terrible voyage to America, and the hard, unimaginable life as a slave; all the while remembering where she came from and longing to return. 

Aminata's story travels a full circle - physically, from Africa, to South Carolina, to New York, to Nova Scotia, to London and back to Africa; and emotionally in a similar way.  She encounters many people in her life -- good and bad, black and white -- that help her keep her on the path to what becomes her ultimate goal:  becoming and remaining a free woman.

Lawrence Hill has written a wonderful novel and I am impressed with his ability to create such a wonderful female character.  It is at times not easy to read, but I am glad that I did. 

This is my second book completed for the Canadian Book Challenge 4.


  1. This is one of my favourite books. I was a history major in university and I studied a lot of African history, and I think this is the best fiction novel about slavery I have read, in that it stays true to history and gives us a perspective that is often missing.

  2. i love how you mention the circular idea of the story, both in terms of geography and emotions. i thought Hill did a fascinating job of showing how much a human being can change, and yet remain the same, in the journeys of a lifetime.

    i wish i'd been offered this book as reading in history classes when i was growing up! i probably would have enjoyed the class a bit more. :)

  3. I wish that we in America were encouraged to read more widely, from places around the world. We are so insular.


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