The Book of NegroesBook - 2009
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Lawrence Hill's nationally bestselling novel has garnered praise and awards around the world. The Book of Negroes has won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and CBC Canada Reads, among many others. Lawrence Hill--and his remarkable character Aminata Diallo--have become household names throughout Canada.
Readers will follow the story of Aminata, an unforgettable heroine who cut a swath through an 18th-century world hostile to her colour and her sex. Abducted as an eleven-year-old child from her village in West Africa and put to work on an indigo plantation on the sea islands of South Carolina, Aminata survives by using midwifery skills learned at her mother's side, and by drawing on a strength of character inherited from both parents. Eventually, she has the chance to register her name in the "Book of Negroes," a historic British military ledger allowing 3,000 Black Loyalists passage on ships sailing from Manhattan to Nova Scotia.
This remarkable novel transports the reader from an African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from a soured refuge in Nova Scotia to the coast of Sierra Leone, in a back-to-Africa odyssey of 1,200 former slaves. Bringing vividly to life one of the strongest female characters in recent fiction, Lawrence Hill's remarkable novel has become a Canadian classic.
From the critics
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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.