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The Book Of Negroes [Paperback]

Lawrence Hill
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 4 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.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Stunning, wrenching and inspiring, the fourth novel by Canadian novelist Hill (Any Known Blood) spans the life of Aminata Diallo, born in Bayo, West Africa, in 1745. The novel opens in 1802, as Aminata is wooed in London to the cause of British abolitionists, and begins reflecting on her life. Kidnapped at the age of 11 by British slavers, Aminata survives the Middle Passage and is reunited in South Carolina with Chekura, a boy from a village near hers. Her story gets entwined with his, and with those of her owners: nasty indigo producer Robinson Appleby and, later, Jewish duty inspector Solomon Lindo. During her long life of struggle, she does what she can to free herself and others from slavery, including learning to read and teaching others to, and befriending anyone who can help her, black or white. Hill handles the pacing and tension masterfully, particularly during the beginnings of the American revolution, when the British promise to free Blacks who fight for the British: Aminata's related, eventful travels to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone follow. In depicting a woman who survives history's most trying conditions through force of intelligence and personality, Hill's book is a harrowing, breathtaking tour de force. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"The Book of Negroes is a masterpiece, daring and impressive in its geographic, historical and human reach, convincing in its narrative art and detail, necessary for imagining the real beyond the traces left by history."
--THE GLOBE AND MAIL -- THE GLOBE AND MAIL

"Aminata is a heroic figure, a little larger than life, residing within and outside of history.You can never forget this character."
--TORONTO STAR --Toronto Star

"The Book of Negroes is a masterpiece, daring and impressive in its geographic, historical and human reach, convincing in its narrative art and detail, necessary for imagining the real beyond the traces left by history." --The Globe and Mail

"Aminata is a heroic figure, a little larger than life, residing within and outside of history.You can never forget this character." -- Toronto Star --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
115 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful education! March 10 2007
Format:Hardcover
In all the fiction I've read pertaining to that bleak period of African slavery in the Americas, none has left me feeling as hope-filled as "The Book of Negroes" has. It is courageous enough a feat that our Black ancestors survived the indignities of slavery to bring us here today, but it is so very uplifting to read of a character who doesn't merely survive it, but makes it her life's work to change the condition for all slaves.

Although a work of fiction, "The Book of Negroes" reminds us of the dangerous labour of those exceptional real-life heroes - Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Frances Harper, and the countless others who worked tirelessly in the abolitionist movement - who believed that fighting for freedom was worth infinitely more than dying in silence.

What makes "The Book of Negroes" so engaging is the insight we have into Aminata Diallo's childhood in Africa before she is even captured. This sets the tone for the way she sees her condition as a slave - as merely something she must overcome so as to return to the land of her birth. And although she bravely endures the harsh rigors of being owned and debased, there is never a moment when the reader feels this woman will not prevail. Even not having been born into a family of storytellers, she recognizes very soon into her captivity that it is her duty to live, and to record the horror facing her people, knowing she will one day have to give an account.

Lawrence Hill has beautifully captured the voice of this precocious child growing into a wise old woman. We are led to smiles in the midst of indescribable despair as Aminata discovers her world through child-like eyes, and to chuckle with her at Buckingham Palace at the irony of King George III marrying an African queen.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! May 7 2007
Format:Hardcover
The actual Book of Negroes is an amazing historical document (a British military ledger) that contains the names and descriptions of 3,000 men, women, and children who served or were supported by the British during the American Revolutionary War. Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes is a brilliantly imagined novel based on the document of the same name and the events surrounding the relocation of thousands of Black Loyalists to various British colonies and eventually to Sierra Leone after the conflict. Similar in approach to The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Hill's offering spans the lifetime of the fictional Aminata (Meena) Diallo, an African born woman who escaped to freedom.

At the beginning of the novel Meena is in London, an old woman who has lived a tumultuous life. At the urging of her abolitionist sponsors, she is asked to pen her story which would be used as evidence depicting the cruelty and inhumanity of the slave trade. Meena, an intelligent, educated woman, authors her autobiography via vivid flashbacks through time. She writes, "Let me begin with a caveat to any and all who find these pages. 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." She continues and details her life as a young child in an African village, her capture and Middle Passage crossing, enslavement while in America, relocation to Nova Scotia, return to Africa (Freetown, Sierra Leone), and partnering with abolitionists in England.

However to summarize the book in such a way is a huge understatement - it is steeped in historical facts that educate and enlighten the reader; I was pulled in immediately after reading the opening passages.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling out my name Sept. 1 2007
By Friederike Knabe TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Hearing your own name spoken in public isn't usually something significant. Yet, on a slave trading ship that transported up to a thousand Africans to North America, this act of public acknowledgement was momentous. Calling out their full names to each other was equal to "affirming their humanity". In the early mornings from the bowels of the vessel the chanting voices represented not only an important ritual of recognition and respect, it was also a way of finding out who had made it through the night. The conditions on the slave ship were abysmal: the Africans were jammed together and shackled most of the time, lacking food and water and sanitation, leading to exhaustion, infections and starvation. Many lost their minds, many more died. When the captives arrived in North America they were traded and sold like cattle and their suffering continued.

The brutality of the West African slave trade in which millions of Africans perished is well documented. However, when a knowledgeable and perceptive novelist transforms these records and the many personal accounts of cruelty and tragedy on the one hand and survival, perseverance and hope on the other into one inclusive narrative around one memorable character, the realities of the many merge into one rich and lively, heart wrenching and joyful history-based novel of exceptional beauty and power.

First we meet Aminata Diallo, the heroine of The Book of Negroes, as a frail old woman, yet with a fiery spirit and resolve that she must have had all her life. Hill's novel lets her relate her story in her own voice, direct and uncomplicated, yet subtle and insightful.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars sad the way the WHITE man treated them
a lot of reading but worth every word...sad the way the WHITE man treated them.
Published 18 days ago by Geraldine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read
Published 22 days ago by Louis Probst
5.0 out of 5 stars Now a movie
Now that it's been filmed I gave this to a friend. The book is a fuller exposition. I know that he'll be pleased.
Published 1 month ago by Jeremy G
5.0 out of 5 stars A new perspective on a sad time in history
This brilliantly written novel works on so many levels. From the realistic characters to the descriptions of place and time I felt as if I was walking along observing the story.
Published 1 month ago by David Patrick O'Leary
5.0 out of 5 stars A Heart Wrenching Story
This was a book I couldn't put down. The hard ships that so many have endured need to be told and I sincerely hope that through these stories we learn to be better people in life. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Miss Daisy
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Negroes
Very dramatic and spell-bounding-they are no making the movie here in Nova Scotia so that makes it even more fascinating.
Published 2 months ago by Heather
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing story
I was referred to this book . I went in not knowing anything about the book . I was amazed by it . I can't stop telling others about it . It opened my eyes . What a story .
Published 3 months ago by Jo-Anne
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it!
This book was interesting, emotional, sad, and inspiring all at the same time! Clearly outlined the life of A girl who made herself into a strong woman. Loved it!
Published 3 months ago by Joanna McNeilly
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely the best read ever!
This book was enthralling, disturbing, and impossible to put down. The inhumanity of slavery and the unimaginable plight of a whole race subject to the whims of prejudice, hatred... Read more
Published 4 months ago by George
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb read - only a couple things a bit amiss
I could not put this book down. I'm always a bit worried when real history is presented in a fictionalized manner. But I learned so much reading this book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Anna Black
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