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O livro dos negros (PRI)

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O Livro dos Negros conta a história de Aminata Diallo, uma das personagens femininas mais fortes e marcantes da ficção contemporânea. Aminata foi sequestrada, ainda criança, na África, e vendida como escrava na Carolina do Sul. Após a Revolução Americana, ela foge para o Canadá e escapa da vida de escrava para tentar uma nova história em liberdade. O livro traz uma história O Livro dos Negros conta a história de Aminata Diallo, uma das personagens femininas mais fortes e marcantes da ficção contemporânea. Aminata foi sequestrada, ainda criança, na África, e vendida como escrava na Carolina do Sul. Após a Revolução Americana, ela foge para o Canadá e escapa da vida de escrava para tentar uma nova história em liberdade. O livro traz uma história que nenhum ouvinte e nenhum leitor esquecerão. O nome "O Livro dos Negros" se deu devido ao documento histórico, mantido por oficiais navais britânicos, ao fim da Revolução Americana. O documento oficializou os negros que serviram ao rei na Guerra e fugiram para Manhattan, no Canadá, em 1783. Apenas os negros que estivessem no Livro dos Negros poderiam escapar e conseguir sua liberdade. Aminata Diallo percorre toda uma longa trajetória com a finalidade de conseguir entrar no livro dos negros e conquistar sua liberdade. A obra, marcante e inesquecível, tornou-se uma miniserie de sucesso nos Estados Unidos. Dirigida e escrita por Clemente Virgo (The Wire) e protagonizada pela atriz Aunjanne Ellis e Cuba Gooding Jr., vencedor do Oscar em 1996.


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O Livro dos Negros conta a história de Aminata Diallo, uma das personagens femininas mais fortes e marcantes da ficção contemporânea. Aminata foi sequestrada, ainda criança, na África, e vendida como escrava na Carolina do Sul. Após a Revolução Americana, ela foge para o Canadá e escapa da vida de escrava para tentar uma nova história em liberdade. O livro traz uma história O Livro dos Negros conta a história de Aminata Diallo, uma das personagens femininas mais fortes e marcantes da ficção contemporânea. Aminata foi sequestrada, ainda criança, na África, e vendida como escrava na Carolina do Sul. Após a Revolução Americana, ela foge para o Canadá e escapa da vida de escrava para tentar uma nova história em liberdade. O livro traz uma história que nenhum ouvinte e nenhum leitor esquecerão. O nome "O Livro dos Negros" se deu devido ao documento histórico, mantido por oficiais navais britânicos, ao fim da Revolução Americana. O documento oficializou os negros que serviram ao rei na Guerra e fugiram para Manhattan, no Canadá, em 1783. Apenas os negros que estivessem no Livro dos Negros poderiam escapar e conseguir sua liberdade. Aminata Diallo percorre toda uma longa trajetória com a finalidade de conseguir entrar no livro dos negros e conquistar sua liberdade. A obra, marcante e inesquecível, tornou-se uma miniserie de sucesso nos Estados Unidos. Dirigida e escrita por Clemente Virgo (The Wire) e protagonizada pela atriz Aunjanne Ellis e Cuba Gooding Jr., vencedor do Oscar em 1996.

30 review for O livro dos negros (PRI)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    (International title: Someone Knows My Name) It's 1802 and Aminata Diallo, now an old woman, sits down to write her life story at the request of the Abolitionists in London. Abducted from her village in West Africa at the age of eleven and marched in a coffle (a string of slaves) for three months before reaching the coast, Aminata survives the voyage to America and ends up sold to an indigo plantation owner in South Carolina. She describes herself as lucky, because compared to the tragic circumst (International title: Someone Knows My Name) It's 1802 and Aminata Diallo, now an old woman, sits down to write her life story at the request of the Abolitionists in London. Abducted from her village in West Africa at the age of eleven and marched in a coffle (a string of slaves) for three months before reaching the coast, Aminata survives the voyage to America and ends up sold to an indigo plantation owner in South Carolina. She describes herself as lucky, because compared to the tragic circumstances and end of so many other black slaves, Aminata manages to survive using her wits, her skills as a midwife, her ability to pick up new skills quickly, and her strength of character. She witnesses many horrors and sorrows, and experiences them as well, that make her ponder the human nature and the hypocrisy of religions, even her own. Yet through it all she does not succumb to anger or hatred; she wants only to be together with her husband, Chekura, and their children, who are all taken from her. When Britain surrenders to the rebels they keep their promise to the Black Loyalists - in a way. With a certificate proving they have worked behind British lines for at least a year, they can sign their name in the Book of Negroes and be given passage to a British colony. Most are sent to Nova Scotia, including Aminata. She may have escaped the American slave owners but she hasn't escaped the prejudice, fear and hatred with which the blacks face everywhere they go. The opportunity to return to Africa - the dream she's always had - comes her way, but if she ever wants to see her home village of Bayo again she'll have to make a deal with the devil. This book is going straight onto my "favourites" list. The sweeping, lifelong, cross-generational story arc reminded me of another favourite book of mine, City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling, which is about the early days of the Dutch in Nieuw Amsterdam before it became New York. The Book of Negroes is a powerful story on many fronts: it's a very human story, sympathetic, honest, fair to the greys of history, thought-provoking, poignant. One of the beautiful things about this book is how, as a reader, you feel more in tune with the Africans, while the whites seem strange, alien, bewildering, contradictory. I don't mean that Hill paints an uneven picture - far from it, the rendering of history into something visceral, tangible, grants perspective and context. It's not a simple matter of "white man, bad; black man, victim". That's what I mean by this book being honest: honest about human nature, about the complexities of history, without making excuses for anyone of any colour. I don't mean that there weren't characters who enrage you, but that they are presented relatively free of the taint of presentism. If you're not familiar with the term, "presentism" refers to our natural tendency to judge history through the lens of the present, by our own modern standards, rather than acknowledging and positioning things within a historical perspective. Hill has done an admirable job of completely immersing us in the 18th century, creating a protagonist who is a product of the time as much as one of circumstance. Hill has managed to write a convincing, wonderful female protagonist - frankly, not many male writers are this successful. Aminata is unflinchingly honest with herself and others, and by being so thoroughly in her head, she gives us what the Africans needed most during slavery: a voice, the understanding that she's just like us, not some black beast from darkest Africa - heathen, barbarian, uncivilised. As in some other books, the irony comes through clearly: which is the uncivilised race? Who is the barbarian? When Aminata arrives in London, the first thing she sees are the legless beggars on the street, the filth and crowds and pretensions. She doesn't even need to say anything. Another irony is the rebellion in the American colony - Aminata is in New York when things get nasty, and constantly hears the white Americans talking about being slaves to the British, and fighting for their freedom. Aminata doesn't need to point out anything here, and I don't think I do either. Her own people don't come off smelling of roses either. The book is thoroughly researched and historically accurate, and makes no bones about Africans enslaving each other well before the white people came, and it is Africans who capture Aminata, kill her parents, torch her village, and sell her to the white slavers. Slavery has a long, long history, and no race, it seems, is exempt. The Egyptians did it, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Israelites were famously enslaved, the Romans are guilty - and what is feudalism if not a form of slavery, which the English and French and others used for a very long time? If nothing else, this book highlights the fact that, no matter what colour you are or what your diet is, we are all human and share this intangible thing called human nature. Cruelty exists everywhere, and cannot be simply attributed to your race, though neither can it be excused. This is why I insist that the history of black slavery - while it existed predominantly between the British slaving companies and the Americas - is everyone's history. For a comprehensive story covering three different continents and exposing many of the situations black slaves, runaways and freed slaves faced, you can't go wrong with this one. It's also beautifully written. Aminata has a simple, honest style, without embellishment or fanciful detail. She rarely passes judgement, but offers her own thoughts and perspective subtly. She is captured just before reaching puberty and so, ironically, escapes female circumcision, which her people practised (removing the clitoris and part of the labia, and sewing up the vaginal entrance - extraordinarily painful and meant to make a woman "pure" for her husband - Aminata isn't keen but doesn't judge; I on the other hand believe it is the cruellest form of torture you can do to a woman and there's no excuse for it. It's an old African tradition, nothing to do with Islam, and still occurs in some places like Ethiopia). There are moments of violence and cruelty, because that was largely the life of the black slaves, but while Aminata doesn't gloss over them, neither does she dwell on them in such detail that you shy away from the book. I was walking one day behind a yoked man who swerved without warning to the left. I had no time to react, and my foot sank into something wet and soft. Something like a twig cracked under my heel. I let out a scream. Under my foot was the body of a naked, decomposing man. I jumped away and ripped leaves from the nearest branch. In a frenzy, I wiped a mass of wriggling white worms from my ankle. I was shaking and wheezing. Fanta took the leaves and wiped my foot and held me and told me not to be afraid. But my hysteria escalated, even though Fanta barked at me to calm down, and I could not stop screaming. (p41) For all that Aminata and other slaves go through, she deserves the right to tell her whole story and not shy from the unpleasant details, or have her account censored. Remember her audience: white, genteel 19th century English men and women, the Abolitionist committee, the court of law, the common people who can read the newspapers in which parts of her story are published. It is the early 1800s, Regency London - the same time and place in which we love to read carefree romance novels that are free of the taint of black slavery - and the English have no real idea or any sympathy for what the black slaves endured. She argued to be the one to write her own story, by herself, and she refused to let the Abolitionists remove details that "couldn't be proven". Even though she is a fictional character in a fictional account, she deserves to be heard by us as well. There's one other thing I just have to mention: the evolution of the African-American dialect. I've come to appreciate it because of this book. I mean, I always understood that it was their way of forming a new identity, one that couldn't be taken away from them, even now. But as they learnt English, as slaves, what would happen if they spoke like their masters? Aminata learns this, she learns the dialect that the slaves speak to each other, and the grammatically stronger but far from perfect English they use with the white people. They needed a way to speak to each other without the whites understanding, yet they all came from different African tribes speaking one of thousands of African languages, or they were born on plantations and don't know any African languages at all, and so they devise their own way of speaking, close to English but entirely of their own creation. After Aminata escapes slavery, she drops this dialect and speaks "proper" English, but I get the sense it is due to her ability to learn languages quickly and well, and her desire not to be looked down upon, rather than a form of pretension. It certainly makes her a bit of a curiosity with the white people. The Book of Negroes is a masterpiece of historical literature, capturing the contradictions of the human condition in graceful, honest prose, and gifting us with a new, entirely sympathetic protagonist. Please, read this book. It couldn't possibly fail to touch you, and teach you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Raeleen Lemay

    This is a book where the plot is centered around slavery, but the book isn't really about slavery. The story is really about a woman and the hardships she went through. Aminata was an incredible protagonist, and I wish more people could be like her. It is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend that everyone read it! It has really made me want to pick up more books that focus specifically on different cultures, as it really opened my eyes to how brutal some parts of the world were (and still are This is a book where the plot is centered around slavery, but the book isn't really about slavery. The story is really about a woman and the hardships she went through. Aminata was an incredible protagonist, and I wish more people could be like her. It is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend that everyone read it! It has really made me want to pick up more books that focus specifically on different cultures, as it really opened my eyes to how brutal some parts of the world were (and still are). It may be fiction, but most of what happens in this book is true, and it really hits you hard.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    Someone knows my name is a compelling and fascinating account of one woman’s remarkable experiences that spans six decades and three continents as a slave from childhood through to her death. I loved this book when I first read it in 2011 and really enjoyed re-reading (listening) to this one as a buddy read with a friend. A book that grabs your attention from page one. The history of the Slave Trade in America is heartbreaking and real and this is one of those books that is chilling and unpu Someone knows my name is a compelling and fascinating account of one woman’s remarkable experiences that spans six decades and three continents as a slave from childhood through to her death. I loved this book when I first read it in 2011 and really enjoyed re-reading (listening) to this one as a buddy read with a friend. A book that grabs your attention from page one. The history of the Slave Trade in America is heartbreaking and real and this is one of those books that is chilling and unputdownable because it brings history to life for the reader and that is how historical fiction works so well for me. The author paints a realistic but terrifying picture of a time and practice that that will have your emotions all over the place as you read of the horrendous atrocities of slavery in our world’s history. The story focuses on Aninata Diablo, who was born in West Africa in 1745. Kidnapped as a child, she is enslaved in South Carolina but escapes during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. This book’s strength lies in its wonderful protagonist Aminata, a frail old lady who recounts her story and her courage and strength in the face of all evil is truly inspiring and page turning. You will find yourself rooting for this character from the very first page. A meticulously researched novel that is rich in history and a book that is educational, entertaining and really good story. I listened to his one on audio and really enjoyed the narration and can highly recommend this as a hard copy read and an audible choice.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    UPDATE: $1.99 Kindle special today! It's soooooooo GOOD!!! Lisi: (my best friend since Jr. High School). Thank you for last week-end! NOTE: If you have received your mail, I have started this book which you told me I MUST MUST read. I started it this morning. WOW....I'm hooked already! WONDERFUL ---just as you said!!!! Thanks *Ilyce*! (luv, ya...'Hi to Ken') --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- WOW!!!! I could not stop thinking about this story ev UPDATE: $1.99 Kindle special today! It's soooooooo GOOD!!! Lisi: (my best friend since Jr. High School). Thank you for last week-end! NOTE: If you have received your mail, I have started this book which you told me I MUST MUST read. I started it this morning. WOW....I'm hooked already! WONDERFUL ---just as you said!!!! Thanks *Ilyce*! (luv, ya...'Hi to Ken') --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- WOW!!!! I could not stop thinking about this story even when I wasn't reading it. (I'll be thinking about this book for a long time)! "The Book of Negroes" is a real historical document -which lists names of slaves who chose to leave the United States to go to Canada. (had to be frightening). This book is packed-filled with history- and struggles for survival. Slave-trades? --my God ---what a journey you're taken on by excellent writing of the author Lawrence Hill! The storytelling is TOP QUALITY ---absorbing ---page after page!!! Amazing characters, (indomitable heroine), times, places, human suffering, and eventual freedom. Its a long thick-fat paper-back book ---but I enjoyed reading EVERY WORD!. I 'couldn't skip over anything! Very impressive epic novel!! Cheers to Lawrence Hill!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    This is definitely the best book I read in 2011 and one I will remember for a long time. Aminata Diallo is such a powerful character, a woman who had to deal with so much in her life but came out with a small victory in the end. Slavery is something we all know about but it's very rare we really think about what the slaves went through, and how they were forced to adopt to a new culture and life separated from their family and homeland.Lawrence Hill did exceptional work on this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Giselle

    Abducted by slave traders as a young child, Aminata is a survivor. She is taken so far from home that her ultimate vow is to get back. This is her powerful story that will make you laugh, tear and jump for joy all at the same time. Powerful. Moving. Memorable. The Book of Negroes will stay with you long after you have read it. I couldn't put this one down. I know it seems like such a daunting read and the font is tiny, but trust me, you'll fly through this. There are times it's heart-breaking, so Abducted by slave traders as a young child, Aminata is a survivor. She is taken so far from home that her ultimate vow is to get back. This is her powerful story that will make you laugh, tear and jump for joy all at the same time. Powerful. Moving. Memorable. The Book of Negroes will stay with you long after you have read it. I couldn't put this one down. I know it seems like such a daunting read and the font is tiny, but trust me, you'll fly through this. There are times it's heart-breaking, so I had to pause and not read it for a day but I couldn't wait to get back to it. The characters are so vivid and so real. The amount of research that was put into motion is clearly evident when you're reading her harrowing journey. You can't help but feel like you went on this journey with her. The story is one of survival and also one where our main character can't call anywhere else "home." Aminata is one character to admire, that's a fact.  I'd give this a billion more stars if I could. Such an excellent book!!! I cried tears of sadness and joy all at the same time. Now I can finish watching the rest of the TV show adaptation. The writing is excellent and the story and the characters and just everything about it screams "classic."  RATING 5/5 QUOTES I prayed that this was a dream, but the dream would not relent. (33) That, I decided, was what it meant to be a slave: your past didn't matter; in the present you were invisible and you had no claim on the future. (215) I knew that it would be called United States. But I refused to speak that name. There was nothing united about a nation that said all men were created equal, but that kept my people in chains. (349) It's about more than land. It's about freedom. Negroes want to make our own lives. (411) I had learned that there were times when fighting was impossible, when the best thing to do was to wait and to learn. (424) They did not attempt to enslave us, but nor did they set us free. (433) Sometimes a deal with the devil is better than no deal at all. (461) Who was to blame for all this evil, and who had started it? (473)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adira

    EVERYBODY PLEASE READ THIS BOOK NOW!!!!!!!! I felt a whole range of emotions when reading this book. I can't even form a complete review to give Hill's novel justice. However, I will say that this is the type of book that demands to be read and more importantly, to reach a vast readership. It demands that you sit down and put your WHOLE heart into reading this novel. I say this because this story doesn't fully release the reader until they have hit the very last page and felt every emotion one co EVERYBODY PLEASE READ THIS BOOK NOW!!!!!!!! I felt a whole range of emotions when reading this book. I can't even form a complete review to give Hill's novel justice. However, I will say that this is the type of book that demands to be read and more importantly, to reach a vast readership. It demands that you sit down and put your WHOLE heart into reading this novel. I say this because this story doesn't fully release the reader until they have hit the very last page and felt every emotion one could ever think to feel and even then, Hill's writing grips you and won't let you rest. In short, this book requires a lot out of its readers. Case in point, when I read this book, it begged me as a reader to do so in small increments because I felt as if I was making the same painful journey into slavery that Aminata Diallo was thrust into at the mere age of eleven years old. Out of frustration and anger, I turned to Where'd You Go Bernadette to cleanse my pallet before I could continue on. The book is by no means a simple or quick read. Rushing through this book would be a HUGE mistake for any reader. I beseech everyone who reads this review to READ this book AND to spread the word, Hill's novel deserves to be the next phenomenon.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    My expectations were set really high for this one. It sat proudly at the top of my to-read pile with an imposing 4.40 average across close to 1400 ratings. Now, I'm not one of those dinks who look to read popular novels (see Da Vinci Code pinheads) just so they can turn their haughty noses up on them and knock down averages), but I'm afraid my rating will knock this average down just a notch. Not because I'm a pinhead, but because The Book of Negroes lacks what I need in a novel. Time and again, wh My expectations were set really high for this one. It sat proudly at the top of my to-read pile with an imposing 4.40 average across close to 1400 ratings. Now, I'm not one of those dinks who look to read popular novels (see Da Vinci Code pinheads) just so they can turn their haughty noses up on them and knock down averages), but I'm afraid my rating will knock this average down just a notch. Not because I'm a pinhead, but because The Book of Negroes lacks what I need in a novel. Time and again, when I read these types of novels, I can't help but hold them up to the bars that were raised by Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, or Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. Particularly A Fine Balance. That novel tore my heart apart. Mistry had developed those characters so well, that with every turmoil or setback they came up against, I hurt with them, I rooted for them,I damn near cried for them. The slave trade is one of the truly dark stains on our history. All of those wasted lives, and families torn apart forever. How could this story of a girl sold into slavery and sent halfway around the world be anything but tragic? While I felt for everything she had gone through, and felt for her losses, the betrayals, I didn't feel a whole lot for her. The Book of Negroes reads like an autobiography, but this is a novel. I need novels to be rich in character development to engage me enough to care not only what is going on with them, but to care about them as if I know them. There are rare exceptions to my rule (Brian Lumley's Necroscope series for one, and hey, if you're the type of person who will read everything from Book of Negroes to Necroscope, well, you are a kindred spirit to yours truly. Anyways...), but, by and large, strong characters are IT for me, and I found Hill to be somewhat lacking in this skill. There are some authors out there (Stephen King is one, John Irving is another) who can paint a vivid picture of a character with the subtlest of details or quirks in the space of one paragraph, that will stick with you through the entire story. I found through this story, Aminata relays these terrible things that are happening to her, and I felt like nothing more than a bystander, albeit feeling sadness that these types of things really happened, much in the way I felt it when I learned about this in history class. I also found his prose to be just a little too simple. Anyways, I'm rambling here and more or less repeating myself. Bottom line: I liked the story. I had hit a point with about 100 pages to go where I was anxious to move on to something else, but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. Hill did touch me emotionally with the last few pages, so don't think that I didn't feel anything at all for Aminata. I just didn't feel it a whole lot through most of the story. There I go repeating myself again. Okay. Good story. Thinly developed characters. Recommended for those interested in this point in history. And there were parts to the story where the plight of her people really hit me. Oh yeah, and I loved reading about what New York City was like in the late 1700s. Follow Broadway to the woods. That's rich.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    My family is anti conditions-of-blacks-in-the-American-south type of literature. I was taught to avoid being "one of those black people who obsess over slavery" and focus on our future. Being born in Canada and growing up in an East African/West Indian family, there was a belief that the American slave experience was somehow not "our" experience. With that said, the only reason I read this book is because the author is from Canada. Shallow, but true. The story is told in retrospect through the e My family is anti conditions-of-blacks-in-the-American-south type of literature. I was taught to avoid being "one of those black people who obsess over slavery" and focus on our future. Being born in Canada and growing up in an East African/West Indian family, there was a belief that the American slave experience was somehow not "our" experience. With that said, the only reason I read this book is because the author is from Canada. Shallow, but true. The story is told in retrospect through the eyes of the main character, Aminata. Her character is complex. She is a strong woman, yet she worries about her appearance and acceptance, at times she questions herself, she feels tenderness for her loved ones, she feels fear and sadness. To her benefit (and at times to her detriment), she is assertive throughout her journey. Despite loss, violation, and overt and covert attempts to "put her in her place" she remains dignified. I loved the way all of the characters were portrayed. White doesn't necessarily mean bad/enemy. Black doesn't necessarily mean good/friend. And then there are the people in between (Jewish, Mulatto) trying to find a balance between being an insider and outsider. The novel covers about a 50ish year period. It explains some of the historical connections between the roles of Africa, USA, Canada, Europe, (with a touch of the West Indies) in the slave trade. But it also addresses some issues that persist to this day (defining cultural and religious identity, relations between minority groups). Because the book was so expansive, there are points in the story towards the end that seem rushed in terms of character/plot development. However, this works on some level because the circumstances in the plot suggest that Aminata herself may have been rushed towards the end of writing her story....but I could also be making excuses for the author because I like the book. This is actually the first book I have read about the slave trade, but it will definitely not be my last.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Traveling Sister :)

    I loved this book from the beginning. Read it for book club and so glad I did. The novel tells the story of a young girl stolen from her village in Africa to be sold into slavery. As an old woman she is recounting the story of her life. This is where our story begins. Aminata is sold to several masters and then finally gains her freedom. She is part of a large exodus from the US by the British who had promised them freedom if they fought for the British or helped them in any way during the revolu I loved this book from the beginning. Read it for book club and so glad I did. The novel tells the story of a young girl stolen from her village in Africa to be sold into slavery. As an old woman she is recounting the story of her life. This is where our story begins. Aminata is sold to several masters and then finally gains her freedom. She is part of a large exodus from the US by the British who had promised them freedom if they fought for the British or helped them in any way during the revolutionary war. They are taken to Nova Scotia only to once again encounter prejudice and no jobs, land or opportunity to form a good life. Eventually they are offered a trip back to Africa to found a new colony. She takes this opportunity and tries to find her home village. She goes through many trials and hardships but always hangs on to her "true self". she is finally rewarded with passage to London and an opportunity to tell her story. I would highly recommend this book, it is very well written with descriptions of Aminata that made me feel as though I knew her. ***All time favorite novel with great heart and a revelation about the British and slavery that I had never known existed***

  11. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    This book was obviously sad and depressing given the topic, but it was also fascinating. There was so much history I was unfamiliar with, especially about slavery in Nova Scotia and and the return of ex-slaves to Sierra Leone. At times, the main character seemed a bit improbable and the ending was particularly improbable, but she was a great vehicle for seeing and understanding slavery in a number of contexts and also understanding that "undoing" the damage done is very complicated.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Update (2): This just in from BOOK NEWS - "Lawrence Hill's bestselling novel The Book of Negroes is set to be adapted for film thanks to a chance meeting in a Toronto bookstore." http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/a... Update: "The Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill tops Amazon.ca books list for the week ending June 16, 2009 Larry's extensive research and plain great story-telling are only two of the reasons why it was Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; the winner of The Rogers Writers' Tru Update (2): This just in from BOOK NEWS - "Lawrence Hill's bestselling novel The Book of Negroes is set to be adapted for film thanks to a chance meeting in a Toronto bookstore." http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/a... Update: "The Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill tops Amazon.ca books list for the week ending June 16, 2009 Larry's extensive research and plain great story-telling are only two of the reasons why it was Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; the winner of The Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize; went on to become a #1 National Bestseller; and was most recently not only the winner of Canada Reads, but was declared the readers' choice -- by a landslide. I read this book as soon as it hit the shelves, but was not writing reviews, to speak of, at that time. If the above awards are not reason enough to pick up this book, there are many reviews that have already been written. It goes without saying that, especially in Canada, but also in The United States (Title: Someone Knows My Name), this is quite likely the most high-profile book out there today. I personally, cannot recommend it highly enough. A final note: Larry says in BOOK BLOGS, re: Why I am not allowed to use my book title: When I began touring with the novel in some of the major US cities, literary African-Americans kept approaching me and telling me it was a good thing indeed that the title had changed, because they would never have touched the book with its Canadian title.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Precious Williams

    I chanced upon this novel in a rather random way. I was invited to discuss my own forthcoming book at a book club and the book club were reading The Book of Negroes for March. I'd heard of the novel but didn't have immediate plans to read it. In the end I read the entire huge tome (it's about 500 pages) in just two or three days. I actually could not stop reading it. I learnt a lot from this book. I learned a lot about my own family history. I am half Sierra Leonean and the Sierra Leonean half o I chanced upon this novel in a rather random way. I was invited to discuss my own forthcoming book at a book club and the book club were reading The Book of Negroes for March. I'd heard of the novel but didn't have immediate plans to read it. In the end I read the entire huge tome (it's about 500 pages) in just two or three days. I actually could not stop reading it. I learnt a lot from this book. I learned a lot about my own family history. I am half Sierra Leonean and the Sierra Leonean half of my family hails from Freetown. I know that they arrived in Freetown after becoming Maroons in Jamaica and then being expelled from Jamaica and sent to Nova Scotia. Apparently they were actually born in Africa, then enslaved and then they returned to Africa - via Sierra Leone - all in the space of one lifetime. So my ancestors' journey may well have had much in common with that of Aminatta Diallo, the protag in The Book of Negroes. One of the other things I learned from The Book of Negroes is that I'm a sucker for the epic, melodramatic saga-type novel! I fell deeply in love with this book and although it has faults, I was so smitten that the faults didn't matter to me. To thoroughly enjoy this novel you need to be able to suspend disbelief. Our heroine possesses extraordinary, almost supernatural luck and charm. Despite being enslaved, she manages to avoid ever being whipped or otherwise physically punished despite the fact that she is incredibly outspoken. Every time an evil slave-owner feels inclined to rape her or beat her or otherwise humiliate her, she always manages to escape just in the nick of time. She is raped on one occasion, by a disgusting slave-owner, but she miraculously bounces back and seems unscathed by the rape. I got the sense that the writer, Lawrence Hill, adored his protagonist so much that he just couldn't bear to let the very worst elements of slavery befall her. That said, he does 'go there' sometimes. The description of Aminatta's passage from her idyllic village in Mali to the slave ship and beyond is so visceral and disturbing that I had to keep closing the book and taking a break to pull myself together. I felt I was there and it was emotionally draining but insightful. Never before has a work of fiction made slavery feel quite so vivid and relatable. When I closed the book I had a renewed respect for the bravery of my ancestors who had made this same journey as captives from Africa to America (and, in their case, back to Africa again). Aminatta describes the African captives who survived the Middle Passage (or strived to survive it) as heroes and I completely agree with her.

  14. 5 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    This is the story of Aminata, stolen from her homeland in Africa and taken into slavery in America on the cusp of the Revolutionary  War.  Just heart wrenching what she endured, and she was actually one of the lucky ones.  Known as Mina, she easily learned languages and how to read, which helped her survive from one owner to the next, from one town to the next, from one country to the next, and from one continent to the next.  All she wanted was to have a family and to some day return to her hom This is the story of Aminata, stolen from her homeland in Africa and taken into slavery in America on the cusp of the Revolutionary  War.  Just heart wrenching what she endured, and she was actually one of the lucky ones.  Known as Mina, she easily learned languages and how to read, which helped her survive from one owner to the next, from one town to the next, from one country to the next, and from one continent to the next.  All she wanted was to have a family and to some day return to her homeland. She meets some abolitionists who ask her to tell her story to some very influential people. She does this but we all know that a century later slavery still existed. I like to think that stories such as hers had some influence in the beginning of changes to come. Except for consistently pronouncing wonder as wander, and strength as shtrength, the narrator was excellent.  5 stars because honestly, it is an amazing, accomplished story. Read it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I can't believe I never rated this book. Iris if you are reading this, Lisi and I both read this together years ago. It's soooo gripping. Possible to put down... sooooo heartbreaking. The author, Lawrence Hill, has a new book our...( I'm in the middle of hiking -audiobook listening to another book...stopped to use the girls room- check mail -- and just discover his new book. It's called "The Illegal".... But I can't recommend this book highly enough. Warning though...you'll be 'spent' when finishe I can't believe I never rated this book. Iris if you are reading this, Lisi and I both read this together years ago. It's soooo gripping. Possible to put down... sooooo heartbreaking. The author, Lawrence Hill, has a new book our...( I'm in the middle of hiking -audiobook listening to another book...stopped to use the girls room- check mail -- and just discover his new book. It's called "The Illegal".... But I can't recommend this book highly enough. Warning though...you'll be 'spent' when finished!!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I found it absorbing; I found it readable. I wanted to like it more than I actually did. If any of Horatio Alger's characters had been born African and sold into slavery, Aminita Diallo might be its preincarnation. It's hard to say that any slave is fortunate, yet Aminita, compared to those around her, keeps drawing to an inside straight only to be dealt the right card. Hollywood should love it. Maybe plausibility is not the most important element in historical fiction. The story "feels good" fr I found it absorbing; I found it readable. I wanted to like it more than I actually did. If any of Horatio Alger's characters had been born African and sold into slavery, Aminita Diallo might be its preincarnation. It's hard to say that any slave is fortunate, yet Aminita, compared to those around her, keeps drawing to an inside straight only to be dealt the right card. Hollywood should love it. Maybe plausibility is not the most important element in historical fiction. The story "feels good" from beginning to end in spite of the sordid background; our hero manages to rise above it, to persevere against all odds, and drink from the Holy Grail in the final chapter. She becomes a mix of Indiana Jones, Roy Rogers and Gandalf, a fine role model for underprivileged 21st century youth. But even as I was drawn into the mythos of accomplishment and social triumph, I kept objecting that the slave trade was not a literary romance but a real time irony and tragedy. In much the same way Horatio Alger sold a dream to oppressed workers, Lawrence Hill uses Aminita to revises a horrific chapter of human history just enough to give hope to a generation so far removed from it, the truth might be met with disbelief. But does that end justify the fiction?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    There isn't enough space to fill all the accolades Lawrence Hill deserves with Someone Knows My Name!! Captivating in every way with a story line that grabs you from the first sentence and ends with you thinking....Awesome!! A book I won't forget and one that is a on my top, top favorites!!!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wilhelmina Jenkins

    What an amazing book! The protagonist is spectacular - I don't think that I have ever identified so completely with a character in slavery. The author incorporates historical events which were new to me - always a plus. The story was so compelling and so true to human behavior. No group was all good or all bad, just human. I am just dazzled by this superb work.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    Inspiring. Emotional. Beautiful. Significant. Insightful. This is a difficult book to read. There were moments that you would clench your jaw, moments that made you take a deep breath because it was too much to full digest, and moments of pure misery and heart shattering. I think this is a novel that everyone must read at least once in their lives. Learning the history of such a tough topic is incredibly suffocating at how horrific it is that any of it happened in the first place. Living vicariou Inspiring. Emotional. Beautiful. Significant. Insightful. This is a difficult book to read. There were moments that you would clench your jaw, moments that made you take a deep breath because it was too much to full digest, and moments of pure misery and heart shattering. I think this is a novel that everyone must read at least once in their lives. Learning the history of such a tough topic is incredibly suffocating at how horrific it is that any of it happened in the first place. Living vicariously through Aminata, the protagonist in the novel, will devastate you to the highest degree, much past learning it in school and more into what it was like for those living it in a first person POV. You see the pain through her eyes, you feel the pain as she feels, and you begin to see reality in a way that previous to the novel, you wouldn't have envisioned, not even with the knowledge and education on the topic from textbooks. This book is an incredibly breathtaking series of events, and I recommend this to everyone and anyone and will do so until the end of time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lesliemae

    I think this box is not large enough to encompass what I learned from this book. I learned about the slave trade in Canada, I learned about Loyalists coming into Nova Scotia in hopes of land and freedom and finding only disillusion, disappointment, and segregation. This tale follows Aminata Diallo from Africa to South Carolina to New York City, to Birchtown, Nova Scotia to Seirra Leone to London, England. By the end of the novel I was so invested in Aminata's story that I was moved and cried thr I think this box is not large enough to encompass what I learned from this book. I learned about the slave trade in Canada, I learned about Loyalists coming into Nova Scotia in hopes of land and freedom and finding only disillusion, disappointment, and segregation. This tale follows Aminata Diallo from Africa to South Carolina to New York City, to Birchtown, Nova Scotia to Seirra Leone to London, England. By the end of the novel I was so invested in Aminata's story that I was moved and cried through the last chapter. As I commence writing a paper about this novel I have begun delving into the actual history of black Loyalists in Nova Scotia and find that Hill's treatment of Birchtown does not deviate very far from the actual setting of history. Inscription: Used Books by SarahJ I like them dog-eared and lawnsoft, and savor the character of winestain and thumbsmudge, the tear-warp between pages, scrawl lolling down margins, x's, question and check marks scratched out as anchors. They kindle affinity with readers who've leafed through before, house a kinship of signatures, conjuring towns and streets in states I'll never visit. They preach the economy of timber and purses, while scribbled dates evoke evenings spent couch-lounging through past springs and winters. Though they come off the press crisp and unsullied, I like them used for the gust of tinder and sawdust, the waft of feathers adrift in a hayloft. I turn the yellow hem of the pages, a hue half neon, half tubercular, like the wallpaper of a motel nicotine-thick with confessions where with the fray, I find repose under covers well plumbed and sepulchral. I like the tone and images evoked by this poem, but think it should also include the water-rippled pages from steamy baths and rounded curves from clutching a girls bottom in her back pocket.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda Hart

    This slave narrative was a hard book to read and I kept putting it down because of its depressing nature, and because I felt the story was told in a dry, exacting, even punishing tone. But finish it I did, and I feel like I am a better person for what I gained in knowledge, understanding and the appreciation of my many blessings. Well researched historical fiction, it is the amazing story of a fictional 11-year-old African girl stolen from her family and sold into slavery. The incidents are take This slave narrative was a hard book to read and I kept putting it down because of its depressing nature, and because I felt the story was told in a dry, exacting, even punishing tone. But finish it I did, and I feel like I am a better person for what I gained in knowledge, understanding and the appreciation of my many blessings. Well researched historical fiction, it is the amazing story of a fictional 11-year-old African girl stolen from her family and sold into slavery. The incidents are taken from actual events. It tells of her horrendous journey from Africa to South Carolina, to New York where she eventually gains her freedom, to Nova Scotia where there was an actual community for freed black slaves, to London, then back to Africa, and again to London where she is instrumental in helping to secure freedom and rights for the Negro people there. The title for the book comes from the ledger that the British used to record "loyal" slaves who were set free and sent to a black settlement Nova Scotia where they were welcome until an economic collapse brought about the first white attack on a black settlement. I felt the "happy" ending was a bit unrealistic and too contrived. I recommend the book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and would specifically like to learn more about slavery and Black history. It made me appreciate all the wonderful blessings I have in my life. Overall, this was a great book

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sincerae

    This link has the listing of the actual people whose names were put in the real life Book of Negros. http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/... Aminata Diallo is eleven when her life is ripped apart and made never the same. Slaver traders attack her village and murder her beloved father and mother. She is taken away on a forced march to the sea and shipped to America where she is enslaved in South Carolina. So begins the lifetime odyssey of Aminata who is renamed against her will "Meena." Aminata i This link has the listing of the actual people whose names were put in the real life Book of Negros. http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/... Aminata Diallo is eleven when her life is ripped apart and made never the same. Slaver traders attack her village and murder her beloved father and mother. She is taken away on a forced march to the sea and shipped to America where she is enslaved in South Carolina. So begins the lifetime odyssey of Aminata who is renamed against her will "Meena." Aminata is a very unique black character, one which most people who have read stories about Africans who have been enslaved are not used to. She is a Muslim. She is not unlearned. Often she tells her story with eloquence occasionally bordering on the poetic. Most Americans aren't aware that Islam is not a religion new to America because of the migration of Middle Eastern Muslim immigrants to these shores in the last few decades. Islam has been here since America was colonies. At least 20 to 25% of Africans who were kidnapped and transported to the Americas were devotees to Islam and also literate. The Book of Negros brings out this history. In this story we meet black people who are intelligent and not dumb. However, there is a difference between the blacks of African descent and recent arrivals like Aminata in level of worldview. Aminata who is fresh off a terrible boat has vowed to never forget her lost parents and her village. Throughout her years as a slave she never loses her dignity and hope. Even though she does not have the Quran her father read from she never throws away some of the values she learned about her religion. Never does she eat pork. Throughout lonely and tragic years she manages to retain part of who she was as an African, but at the same time she also becomes learned in the language of her enslavers. She learns to read and write and is often respected by both blacks and whites. Some young African Americans say they're tired of slave stories and ask why can't we ever win, but what they fail to realize is that even though our history as a people started long before slavery, slavery is also our history and we should remember and revere our ancestors. We should honor them and decide that in our terrible exile and erasure of our identities we will come out the depths we've fallen into in the last few decades and reclaim our dignity and piece together what we can of our African identities so we can become whole again. We can begin to do this through books and learning from the present day African new arrivals to our land. Throughout The Book of Negros the messages are retaining one's identity, loving and respecting the memories of our forefathers and mothers, maintaining dignity in the face or evil and degradation, and the love and comfort of reading and learning. In a time when many black American men and women have lowered their standards and expectations, this is an important book and so is the accompanying mini-series that was broadcast earlier this year. This novel was first published here in the US under the title Someone Knows My Name because it was feared the name might be offensive. The author Lawrence Hill who is Canadian writes: "I used The Book of Negroes as the title for my novel, in Canada, because it derives from a historical document of the same name kept by British naval officers at the tail end of the American Revolutionary War. It documents the 3,000 blacks who had served the King in the war and were fleeing Manhattan for Canada in 1783. Unless you were in The Book of Negroes, you couldn't escape to Canada. My character, an African woman named Aminata Diallo whose story is based on this history, has to get into the book before she gets out. In my country, few people have complained to me about the title, and nobody continues to do so after I explain its historical origins. I think it's partly because the word 'Negro' resonates differently in Canada. If you use it in Toronto or Montreal, you are probably just indicating publicly that you are out of touch with how people speak these days. But if you use it in Brooklyn or Boston, you are speaking in a deeply offensive manner if you were to use such words. When I began touring with the novel in some of the major US cities, literary African-Americans kept approaching me and telling me it was a good thing indeed that the title had changed, because they would never have touched the book with its Canadian title." --From Wikipedia article on The Book of Negros At this time in US history when racial tensions are high and incredible amounts of vitriol and ignorance are coming from all sides, this book is a must. Great and uncommon lessons can come even from fiction.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Using the historical "Book of Negroes" as a component, Lawrence Hill has created a sweeping picture of the African slave trade through the life of one woman, Aminatta Diallo. We follow her from her days with her family in the village of Bayo in an unknown country of Africa, to her kidnapping, travel on a slave ship, and arrival in the new world. The details of that voyage leave very little to the imagination. There she follows the path of many others in being victimized, occasionally befriended, Using the historical "Book of Negroes" as a component, Lawrence Hill has created a sweeping picture of the African slave trade through the life of one woman, Aminatta Diallo. We follow her from her days with her family in the village of Bayo in an unknown country of Africa, to her kidnapping, travel on a slave ship, and arrival in the new world. The details of that voyage leave very little to the imagination. There she follows the path of many others in being victimized, occasionally befriended, but also holding on to the essence of herself instilled by her parents. She she is a strong child who will become a strong woman. With her we will follow the history of the American colonies in the late 18th century, trying to decide who are the good people, who can be trusted among the tuobab, the white people. Ultimately we the readers are treated to an amazing amount of information through this novel (and if you want more just check the author's reading list at the end). He lists where The Book of Negroes is available to be viewed also. I was struck while reading this novel by the care with which Hill maintained the narrative voice throughout the book. While Meena did mature in age and experience and knowledge, the essential Aminatta "Meena" Diallo remained throughout, acting and reacting consistently with what had gone before. After writing my review, I find the rating must be 5.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I've wanted to read this book for a long time, so when it was chosen as a group read in my Historical Fiction group, I jumped at the chance to push it to the top of my list. And I'm very glad that I did. Aminata Diallo was pulled from her home in Africa at 11, forced to walk 3 months to the coast, crossed the Atlantic on a slave ship, and then was sold into slavery. From there, her story veers off in unexpected directions, and I found myself fascinated and completely wrapped up in her life and a I've wanted to read this book for a long time, so when it was chosen as a group read in my Historical Fiction group, I jumped at the chance to push it to the top of my list. And I'm very glad that I did. Aminata Diallo was pulled from her home in Africa at 11, forced to walk 3 months to the coast, crossed the Atlantic on a slave ship, and then was sold into slavery. From there, her story veers off in unexpected directions, and I found myself fascinated and completely wrapped up in her life and all of it's hardships and losses. I loved Aminata. I loved her intelligence, her perseverance, her strength to keep going after every stumble and setback and heartbreak. I knew where she'd end up - that's where we start her story - but I didn't know how we'd get there. Throughout the story there's this sense of perilous doom that hangs overhead. It wouldn't be a tale about slavery and human cruelty if there wasn't. But at the same time, there's a distinct sense of hope and purpose that made me want to keep travelling with Aminata, to keep seeing what was around the next bend of the road. The writing was beautiful. A joy to read, really. I marked so many quotes on my nook while reading this one. I was drawn completely into Aminata's world, no matter where she was. I could see it, hear it, smell it, feel it. There were some inconsistencies regarding the dates, and toward the end, there were quite a few repetitive thoughts, but overall, I loved this story. Very glad that I read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Anze

    "That, I decided, was what it meant to be a slave: your past didn't matter, in the present you were invisible and you had no claim on the future." Aminata Diallo was eleven when she was stolen from her village, chained and marched onto a slave ship that took her from Africa to South Carolina. Aminata was purchased and made a slave on a plantation. Struggling to accept her new reality and uncertain of her identity, Aminata dreams about her freedom and vows te get it back. Her journey is one of str "That, I decided, was what it meant to be a slave: your past didn't matter, in the present you were invisible and you had no claim on the future." Aminata Diallo was eleven when she was stolen from her village, chained and marched onto a slave ship that took her from Africa to South Carolina. Aminata was purchased and made a slave on a plantation. Struggling to accept her new reality and uncertain of her identity, Aminata dreams about her freedom and vows te get it back. Her journey is one of struggle and heartbreak but its one in which she becomes strong and a beacon for others. Another great work of historical fiction that sheds light on a remarkable and largely unknown event. Aminata was just a child when taken and sold into slavery. Having lost all her family and most of her village when it was raided, she made the forced migration into North Carolina. Her first challenge is to learn english and the customs of her new "home". She does and is fortunate to also learn to read and write. Still, she experiences a whole slew of horrors which only further her desire for freedom. Through forced and voluntary migrations, Aminata never stops seeking freedom. It is difficult to say that one enjoys a book about slavery but I did greatly appreciate this book. The characters were well fleshed out and complex. The plot flowed nicely and the narrative was touching and well-researched. This book had been on my TBR list for too long and I am happy to finally have read it. Highly recommended! "Never have I met a person doing terrible things who would meet my own eyes peacefully. To gaze into another person's face is to do two things: to recognize their humanity abd to assert your own." The original title of this novel is 'The Book of Negroes'. It refers to the 150-page-ledger in which 3000 African American/Black names of men, women and children are registered. This group of slaves sided/worked alongside the British during the American Revolutionay War. The British issued a proclamation that any slave that worked in some capacity against the Americans would gain their freedom. Thousands of slaves fled from their owners and became soldiers, cooks, nurses or filled another capacity for the Loyalists. When the British were defeated, they offered those slaves (dubbed 'Black Loyalists') that had been alongside them for a year or more the chance to sail away to one of their colonies. The 3000 whose names and stories are recorded in these ledgers sailed away in 1783. This group went to Quebec, England, Germany but the majority ended up in Nova Scotia. If you love historical fiction, this is a book for you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan G

    I am sorry to report I was disappointed in this book. I was excited to read about the Black Loyalists of Nova Scotia. But there wasn't enough about that; most of the book was devoted to Aminata's kidnapping, passage, and slave days. Nothing wrong with that, but when he finally got around to the less familiar topics, he seemed to run out of gas. What bothered me more, though, was the mediocre writing (and editing). There were just too many inconsistencies (why isn't she unfamiliar with cities and I am sorry to report I was disappointed in this book. I was excited to read about the Black Loyalists of Nova Scotia. But there wasn't enough about that; most of the book was devoted to Aminata's kidnapping, passage, and slave days. Nothing wrong with that, but when he finally got around to the less familiar topics, he seemed to run out of gas. What bothered me more, though, was the mediocre writing (and editing). There were just too many inconsistencies (why isn't she unfamiliar with cities and maps?) and anachronisms (did people in the 18th century really say, "Nice try!" to each other?). The device of a memoir proved unwieldy: it is hard to imagine that this very dignified woman, writing in the early 19th century, would have had a 21st century "voice" and included a graphic (and gratuitous) description of sex with her husband. These are just a few examples; it was rather distracting. I think the book would have been better if the author had used the third person. I'd still recommend the book, but I wish it had been better. I'd like to read more about the subject, but I wouldn't run to read more books by this author.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eastofoz

    This was a quite a surprise read. At first I was expecting something along the lines of Alex Haley’s Roots but it doesn’t have the same quick pace and gut wrenching scenes, it did however prove to be an eye opener with a strong story overall. Told in the first person and mostly through narration (two writing styles I normally dislike), the story comes to life from beginning to end which shows how talented a writer Lawrence Hill is. Even though it was told in the first person the reader can still This was a quite a surprise read. At first I was expecting something along the lines of Alex Haley’s Roots but it doesn’t have the same quick pace and gut wrenching scenes, it did however prove to be an eye opener with a strong story overall. Told in the first person and mostly through narration (two writing styles I normally dislike), the story comes to life from beginning to end which shows how talented a writer Lawrence Hill is. Even though it was told in the first person the reader can still appreciate the other characters and feel for them in the same way they do for the main character. Being primarily narration you’d think it’d be dense and boring but it wasn’t. The story centres around a young girl, Aminata Diallo, who was kidnapped from her village in Africa and sold into slavery in the southern US. She worked in the indigo plantations and also as a midwife. Her story starts out with her peaceable existence in her village, then her frightening voyage to stay alive as she crosses the Atlantic chained in a slave ship, to her youth spent in slave labor in the US followed by her escape into Canada, a return to Africa and finally ending up in the UK. She meets some kind souls along the way as well as some of the most heinous human beings imaginable. The author did extensive research on slaves who were loyal to the British Crown and fled to Canada in the hopes of finding freedom and a promised El Dorado. In the history books used in schools Canada is often seen as a land of hope for the escaped slaves but it couldn’t have been farther from the truth. These people managed to escape one kind of misery and squalor for something equally as vile. Not only were they lied to by the British, they were treated worse than dogs, segregated and had virtually every injustice imaginable happen to them all trying to survive the harsh climate and geography of early Canada. It was a miracle that any of them survived. That information alone made for quite the wake up call. The book though is never a story of victimization, it’s more of a triumph of the human spirit in the face of unbelievable adversity and horror. The ending is somewhat anticlimactic unfortunately and I was left wanting more. The story is often an emotional roller coaster ride that sucks you in right from the start leaving you to believe that you’ve read this kind of thing before but as you go along you realize it’s very different. The characters are as vivid as the various settings and the story has you checking the bibliography to see how much of this is actually true only to shock you into realizing that it’s nearly all based on fact. It's said that history is often told by the winners, this book makes you question what “history” really is.

  28. 4 out of 5

    K

    Lost interest, unfortunately. Thin characterization (the main character is beautiful, smart, resourceful, gutsy, charming, and not particularly accessible to the reader), stereotypes (of course the African mother was a midwife), cliches (of course the parents had fallen in love despite being from different tribes), anachronisms (yet another daughter learning to read despite the times), depression (if you ever doubted that it sucks to be kidnapped for slavery, this book will set you straight), et Lost interest, unfortunately. Thin characterization (the main character is beautiful, smart, resourceful, gutsy, charming, and not particularly accessible to the reader), stereotypes (of course the African mother was a midwife), cliches (of course the parents had fallen in love despite being from different tribes), anachronisms (yet another daughter learning to read despite the times), depression (if you ever doubted that it sucks to be kidnapped for slavery, this book will set you straight), etc., etc. It's an interesting historical period to be sure, but I think I'd rather learn about it from a non-fiction book than from a creaky, didactic, cardboard story posing as a novel.

  29. 4 out of 5

    LaMesha

    WOW! This book was an amazing account of a woman with so much strength & resilience. Aminato is the woman that we should all long to be. Through all the fear, hurt, anger, pain, & being down right deceived, she persevered through it all. Most would crumble & give up on life. Aminato decided to live, and was rewarded with the best GIFT EVERR. I loved every minute of her journey. Even when it was hard to read. My only regret is that it sat on my shelf for far too long.

  30. 5 out of 5

    jo

    as best as i can judge, lawrence hill reproduces here the style and tone of the classic slave narratives, which he also credits at the end (in particular, he directs to reader to The Classic Slave Narratives collected by henry louis gates in one volume that includes olaudah equiano's, mary prince's, frederick douglass', and harriets jacobs' autobiographies). i have taught a couple of slave narratives (douglass and jacobs) and i must say it was a labor of love, because, well, because they sound d as best as i can judge, lawrence hill reproduces here the style and tone of the classic slave narratives, which he also credits at the end (in particular, he directs to reader to The Classic Slave Narratives collected by henry louis gates in one volume that includes olaudah equiano's, mary prince's, frederick douglass', and harriets jacobs' autobiographies). i have taught a couple of slave narratives (douglass and jacobs) and i must say it was a labor of love, because, well, because they sound dated. their authors describe their lives in vivid and horrific terms, yet our contemporary sensibility, latched as it is to the psychology of the individual, relying as it does on introspection, inner conflicts, and psychic shadows, remains somewhat cool at these depictions. and then there's the fact that we are habituated to descriptions of horror. and the fact that we understand the pain of others only when these others are our friends. hundreds of people blown away on the screen don't move us unless: a) we have gotten to know and like at least one of them or b) there are cute animals involved. for some reason, the powers that manipulate the responses of our heart strings have not yet gone to work on immunizing us against the pain of animals. but yeah, they have worked long and hard at immunizing us against the pain of the human "other," so narratives of slavery, the jewish holocaust, and various other genocides leave us a lot colder than they should. hill cuts himself a pretty arduous task in writing a slave narrative using the classic conventions of the genre (if one can call it that) yet trying to make us feel what it is like. i think he succeeds. maybe he should have abandoned the genre conventions, written a different kind of story, made the characters more tridimensional and complex and nuanced, instead of sticking to black-and-white (pun totally meant) representations, the way the original writers did. there are some efforts, especially towards the end, to penetrate motivations, ambiguities, and the power that political pressures have on personal motivations, but at heart this is a story of white people being horrible to black people. if you have already read the classic slave narratives you'll appreciate this book better, because you'll see what hill is trying to do. if you are looking for a contemporary novel with all the hallmarks of the contemporary novel, this will let you down. well, except for the remarkable historical details, which, judging from the acknowledgments, have been researched with painstaking meticulousness. okay, i've finished with my caveats. now to what i like about this book: * aminata is a remarkably strong, vibrant, and sympathetic character. she's a leader and a role model and you will love her. the parts when she describes her present life give perspective to the parts where she recounts her story of slavery. put simply, sophisticated, multilingual, erudite, worldly, wily, skeptical, witty, and non-religious blacks are not part of the pop culture or even the high-culture canon of the western world (this is bound to change rather dramatically now that we are past january 20, 2009, a day that must have made lawrence hill deliriously happy). * the subtleties of the politics of the slave trade and of all large historical events that subsume individuals and force them to collaborate are depicted mercilessly and in a savvy and clear-eyed way. this is also something that comes to fruition particularly towards the end. * because he puts us inside the head of aminata better than douglass and jacobs (the only two ex-slaves whose narratives i've read) put us inside their own heads, hill makes us feel the pain of loss and dehumanization more strongly, to the point that, as someone else here on GR pointed out, we feel that this could happen to us. one of the reasons why white students tend to remain cool when they read douglass & co. is that it is abundantly clear to them that this is something that can only happen to "others." i almost feel that, having to choose one slave narrative for a class, this would be the one to choose. * from the point of view of those interested in historical trauma, the african sections of the story are non-pareil. africa as it was when aminata was little is gone, never to return. it is the devastation, not only of one or many peoples, but of a whole continent, and it all takes place in the space of one generation. * also from the point of view of trauma and survival, it is exceedingly moving that aminata's inner strength comes to her till the very end from the memory of her parents, even though she lost them when she was only 9. * **MINOR SPOILER** the book analyzes very poignantly the dynamics of race and belonging. as an african-born, aminata is always considered different from her american-born fellow slaves, at least until she learns their language fluently. but it is not until she goes back to africa that her difference becomes a mark of her identity. in spite of her fluency with their language and, obviously, of her appearance, the villagers among whom she takes refuge are tempted to identify her as a white person instead of as an african: "In South Carolina, I had been an African. In Nova Scotia, I had become known and a Loyalist, or a Negro, or both. And now, finally back in Africa, I was seen as a Nova Scotian, and in some respects thought of myself that way too" (385). rather than the psychological complexities of the contemporary novel, this book adds to the traditional slave narrative a transnational, multicultural, race-studies dimension. and i didn't mention that it is written beautifully and wisely and grippingly, and that i admire it very much.

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