First aired on Toronto's Metro Morning (27/09/10)
Lawrence Hill's novel The Book of Negroes has sold half a million copies in Canada alone. To achieve sales of that magnitude in this country — with a population of about 34 million — is remarkable. Let's put that into perspective: selling 5,000 copies nation-wide makes your book a best seller. Lawrence Hill has sold 100 times that number. To say The Book of Negroes is a smash hit would be an understatement.
In case you're not one of the 500,000 people who have picked up The Book of Negroes since its publication in 2007, it's the life story of Aminata Diallo, beginning with her childhood in West Africa in the 18th century, where she is abducted by slave traders and her parents murdered. From there, she is taken in a slave ship to the New World and put to work on an indigo plantation in South Carolina. Her epic journey takes her to New York City, to Canada and, finally, back to Africa again, and from slavery to freedom. It is a tale of suffering and sadness, but also of perseverance and hope.
Yesterday Lawrence talked to Matt Galloway on Toronto's Metro Morning about this achievement, which is just the latest in a string of awards and accolades. The Book of Negroes was the 2009 Canada Reads champion, thanks in part to the passionate support of panelist Avi Lewis, and also won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Overall Book and the Rogers' Trust Fiction Prize. Hill is humbled, baffled and very appreciative of his novel's runaway success, but wants to get back to doing what authors do best: sharing stories with the world.
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