The Book of Negroes (or Someone Knows My Name as it’s called in the US) is fiction based on fact. The people are made up; the places and events are noThe Book of Negroes (or Someone Knows My Name as it’s called in the US) is fiction based on fact. The people are made up; the places and events are not. What I thought I knew about the slave trade, it turns out I could have written on a postage stamp. I knew that Africans were kidnapped and taken abroad to work as slaves for wealthy white people several hundred years ago and I thought I knew the hardships and poverty they suffered. Not so.
Aminata continues her story through that life-changing journey through America and Canada. Hardship and humiliation are at the forefront of this book, but what I loved was that Hill allowed his characters to find love and friendship too; he gave characters real strength of human spirit and showed that even during the most heinus events and times, people are capable of the most selfless acts of kindness.
What I found most shocking in the whole book was that this girl realizes she’s amongst people who have no idea who she has no feelings, no need for dignity, and they have no understanding of the land she was forced to leave. Most people can’t pronounce her name and the slave owners don’t even care to try, calling african women Mary to keep things simple.
There were many surprising aspects to this book for me and as well as learning huge amounts about things I thought I already knew about the African slave trade but didn’t, but also it shines a spotlight on almost every nation. The people who captured Aminata in the first place and killed her parents were fellow Africans,the Americans in New York (where Aminata is taken to later in the book) claim to be the slaves of the British (without a hint of irony). Books like this are so important to us and to future generations, lest we should forget.
The Book of Negroes is written in a simple and gentle way that, despite its almost matter-of-fact style, packs a real punch. Aminata is a great narrator and, even though she is fictional (which I admit to sometimes forgettig) she has such an important role to play in brining this story to life.