The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (in the USA, the book is called “Someone Knows my Name“)

Reviewed by Rebecca Hallam

This was an amazing book and taught me a lot about what I should have known already. I did not know about indigo, and how it was produced. This was an incredible story of a woman stolen from her home in Africa and sold into the slave trade in the United States. I did not know about the Book of Negroes immigrating to Canada in Nova Scotia. I felt so awful for the life Aminata Diallo suffered for so many years and on her way back to her home in Africa. The story is so well written I was captivated.  The story, although fiction, leaves me conflicted, knowing how our white ancestors treated these black people and how tribes from their homeland in Africa assisted slave traders in kidnapping people from their homes and profiting from the business. I just didn’t/don’t understand why, as humans, we would treat other human beings this way.  And I don’t know how in our modern world, this kind of treatment could continue.  While our world has made vast improvements, in many ways, we have not changed… and it is not just limited to race.

This was an excellent discussion at our book club. What I learned was that the author, Lawrence Hill, gave the protagonist his oldest daughter’s middle name, Aminata.  He felt in order for him to lift the character off the page and tell the story of a heroic woman in the eighteenth century, he needed to love her like his own daughter.  When he started to write the story, his daughter was eleven years old, the same age as the main character when she is kidnapped by slave traders.  I loved this character, the portrayal of this truth and the facts of our history woven throughout.

Did you know there is a movie, “Amazing Grace” made about William Wilberforce, the man who led the committee to abolish the slave trade in the 1800’s?  I saw this movie several years ago and am going to try and track it down and watch it again.  I knew when I was reading the name in the story that he was a real character.  I’m intrigued to learn about him once again.  Here is the wikipedia page where you can learn more about William, and his involvement in abolishing the slave trade, followed by the link to the movie page for Amazing Grace.