The Book of NegroesBook - 2007
Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle--a string of slaves-- Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic "Book of Negroes." This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own.
Aminata's eventual return to Sierra Leone--passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America--is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey. Lawrence Hill is a master at transforming the neglected corners of history into brilliant imaginings, as engaging and revealing as only the best historical fiction can be. A sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London, The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex.
From Library Staff
PoMoLibrary Jul 05, 2014
Recommended by Leah.
From the critics
Age SuitabilityAdd Age Suitability
violet_kangaroo_106 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over
QuotesAdd a Quote
Aminata Diallo: "Do not trust large bodies of water, and do not cross them. If you, dear reader, have an African hue and find yourself led toward water with vanishing shores, seize your freedom by any means necessary" (Hill 7).
Aminata Diallo: "Some say that I was once uncommonly beautiful, but I wouldn't wish beauty on any woman who has not her own freedom, and chooses not the hands that claim her" (Hill 4).
Aminata Diallo: " I have wondrously beautiful hands. I like to put them on things. I like to feel the bark on trees, the hair on children's heads, and before my time is up, I would like to place those hands on a good man's body, if the occasion arises" (Hill 6).
"When it comes to understanding others, we rarely tax our imaginations." -Aminata Diallo
SummaryAdd a Summary
Lawrence Hill's fictional biography, The Book of Negroes, grabs the reader from the first sentence. Aminata Diallo lives in the village of Bayo in West Africa and, because her mother and father come from different groups, speaks both their languages. In 1745, at eleven years old, Aminata is stolen from her village by slavers and marched three months westward to the Atlantic Ocean. Once there, she is placed on a slave ship and transported to South Carolina where she is sold to an indigo producer.
The girl endures hellish conditions both in the slave ship and on the indigo plantation, but is finally sold to a family her takes her to the infant city of New York. Aminata never loses her determination to escape captivity and to return to her village, but her life leads her into paths that she cannot predict.
Hill not only tells a fascinating story, he also presents a very readable history of the conditions and economic levers driving slavery. The book takesthe reader across continents, oceans, and countries, as well as through the factors that forced Britain to outlaw slavery at home and in its colonies.