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The Book of Negroes

4.41 of 5 stars 4.41  ·  rating details  ·  33,132 ratings  ·  3,982 reviews
Lawrence Hill's novel is published as Someone Knows My Name in the USA, Australia and New Zealand and appears in Canada as The Book of Negroes.

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 wa...more
Paperback, 486 pages
Published January 18th 2007 by HarperCollins
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodAnne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryThe Book of Negroes by Lawrence HillLife of Pi by Yann MartelThe English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
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3rd out of 514 books — 401 voters
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Oct 05, 2009 Shannon (Giraffe Days) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: absolutely everyone
(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...more

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."

"The Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill tops 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...more
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...more
Precious Williams
Mar 28, 2010 Precious Williams rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves a dramatic story
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...more
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...more
Sep 22, 2008 Lesliemae rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love a strong female protagonist
Recommended to Lesliemae by: G.E. Clarke
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...more
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.
Apr 30, 2012 Rowena rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rowena by: Maxine
This is definitely the best book I've 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.
Jan 29, 2012 Becky rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Becky by: Historical Fictionistas
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...more
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...more
Dec 04, 2009 Eastofoz rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers who question "history"
Shelves: fiction
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...more
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,...more
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...more
I love male authors who can write a convincing female lead in their novels. Lawrence Hill's Aminata Diallo is a strong, lucky, fierce woman and I really enjoyed reading her life story.

The writing itself flows so easily that falling into the story and just getting lost in it was super easy. The story itself was in turns shocking, heartbreaking and uplifting.

I am glad I sat down and fell into this book, it was worth every minute.
Nathan James
There isn't a lot to say about this book. It was an excellent summer read: well-paced, engrossing, well written. Not a one of us disliked the book. Reading it, to me, felt like story time in elementary school. You know, you'd be excited to hear the next part of the plot and while it was being read to you it utilized all of your senses. Your childhood naivete allows you to accept all characters and plot lines as truth.

The problem with a great story like that is it doesn't make for a good book gr...more
Feb 19, 2009 jo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to jo by: eccentric muse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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...more
I found this book to be the feminine parallel of "Roots," that I read many years ago, with Aminata Diallo, a Mother Courage like character, traversing the history and geography of what was the prime trading area of the slave industry in the second half of the 18th century.

Plucked from her village as an 11-year old, she endures a harrowing voyage to America, is traded, raped, robbed of her baby and husband, and arrives in New York at the time of the War of Independance. She ships out to Nova Scot...more
Friederike Knabe
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 th...more
In general, I prefer finely written, taut, compact literary novels to big sprawling ones. I had to get past that in order to appreciate this book. I certainly learned a lot. It was a riveting, even if sometimes not quite believable, plot. I feel that the writer really did his research. But I also felt as if he was never going to let me forget it. He was going to move his characters through an arc that would make me learn everything that he’d learned or die trying. So while it was all very intere...more
Mar 29, 2011 K rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K by: TABBIEs book club
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...more
Someone Knows My Name is a very well written fictional account about the early days of slavery in America. It tells the story of Aminata, a child born in Africa, who is captured and taken from her homeland and brought to America as a slave. Yearning to get back to her homeland, Aminata’s strong determination, strength of mind and intelligence enables her to cope with the events she experiences on her travels. Aminata is indeed a strong and courageous female protagonist and is central to the othe...more
Janet Wilson
Hill is a competent storyteller, but I am less happy with the fact this book reads like "Roots Lite". You will have seen or read every element elsewhere; there is nothing original or fresh in the novel, save the preachy tie in to Canada's Black Loyalist history (via the historical Book of Negroes, which is practically incidental to the story). As no new light or significance is cast on the the slave trade and slavery, I find the accolades the book garnered troubling: do we treat books about the...more
It seems I have been reading similar novels about slavery in America, abolitionists, and the Civil War recently. I had gone to the library to borrow books in anticipation of the recent big snow storm and this book is due 2/18. I wasn't sure I wanted to read another book on this topic but it has been on my to-read list for some time and I could not renew it online as 2 others have placed a request for it. I'm so glad I read it! It's an amazing story.

The book is entirely about the life of one pers...more

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 a vast readership. It demands that you sit down and put your WHOLE heart into reading this novel and the story within its cover doesn't fully release the reader until they have hit the last page. Yet, when you read this book, it begs that you do so in segments because your ve...more
The Book of Negroes is a novel that should be sung, rather than read. It is a song of worship, in praise of the taste of an orange, the smell of a newborn; and it is a lament to the horrors we are capable of inflicting on each other, no matter what the colour of our skin. But above all else it is a love song urging us to celebrate our romance with our own dear humanity. "Ba means river," Lawrence Hills' powerful character Aminata writes in The Book of Negroes . "It also means mother." When I fin...more
It wasn't until I was discussing what I was reading with someone else that I learned that the title of this book varies depending on where it is published. In the United States (and I believe Australia and New Zealand) it is called Someone Knows My Name. In Canada, the book is known as The Book of Negroes. As soon as I had this information, I was curious as to the why Lawrence Hill used two different titles as well as discovering which title was a better name for the book.

Early on in my reading...more
Lynette Mattke
My Canadian-purchased copy was actually called The Book of Negroes, but GoodReads seems to know it as Aminata, the name of the main character.
Highly recommend this gripping memoir of a girl stolen from her village in Africa and marched for 3 months to the coast to board a slave ship. Not as graphic as Roots, but well written, touching, and a worthwhile read.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is the story of Aminata Diallo, told in her own words. Yes, it's a novel, but it's written as if Aminata were writing a memoir of her life from birth to age sixty.

This is not only an amazing story, but a subtle education in some of the lesser known aspects of world history. Lawrence Hill incorporates the history into Aminata's telling of her life story in such a way that it doesn't feel like you're getting a lecture or an education. The author's research must have been impressively extensi...more
I loved so many things about this book. In fact, books like these are why I love historical fiction so much. With short, succinct sentences and a great voice from the heroine, the novel highlights slavery in different parts of the world. I liked the structure of the book, and the transitions.

Aminata (or Meena) is forcibly taken from her village in West Africa (I believe she was supposed to have been from Guinea), at age 11. The book starts with her narrating as an older woman and freed slave. W...more
Critiquing a novel about slavery is like critiquing a story about the Holocaust—you can’t win. The experiences were so awful and resonate so much to this day that you come off as a churlish curmudgeon, at best. However, this novel was pedestrian and plodding. There was nothing imaginative here, except the settings (Canada and Britain, in addition to Africa and the US) and time period—18th century. I think we’re used to seeing tales of slavery set in the 19th c. The heroine moves from one fairly...more
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wonderful novel 8 94 Sep 20, 2014 07:05AM  
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Book of Negroes same as Someone Knows My Name 17 253 Aug 20, 2013 03:42AM  
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Lawrence Hill is a journalist and novelist.

His third novel, published as The Book of Negroes in Canada and Someone Knows My Name elsewhere, won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book and the 2007 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
More about Lawrence Hill...
Any Known Blood Some Great Thing Blood: The Stuff of Life Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning

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“To gaze into another persons face is to do two things: to recognise their humanity and to assert your own.” 73 likes
“You must learn to respect," Papa said.

But I do not respect her," I said.

Papa paused for a moment, and patted my leg. "Then you must learn to hide your disrespect.”
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