Canada Reads·Canadian

The Book of Negroes

Lawrence Hill's novel won Canada Reads

Lawrence Hill

In this remarkable historical epic, Lawrence Hill brings home the brutal realities of the slave trade through the powerful, haunting tale of one woman's extraordinary life. At the age of 11, Aminata Diallo is kidnapped from her African village and brought to South Carolina to work as a slave. She eventually wins her freedom and becomes a force in the abolitionist movement in Britain, but only after decades of struggle and adversity. Compelling and richly drawn, the story of Aminata Diallo is destined to become a Canadian classic.

The Book of Negroes won the 2007 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best book overall and Canada Reads 2009, where it was championed by Avi Lewis.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews | More about this book

From the book

I have escaped violent endings even as they have surrounded me. But I never had the privilege of holding onto my children, living with them, raising them the way my own parents raised me for ten or eleven years, until all of our lives were torn asunder. I never managed to keep my own children long, which explains why they are not here with me now, making my meals, adding straw to my bedding, bringing me a cape to hold off the cold, sitting with me by the fire with the knowledge that they emerged from my loins and that our shared moments had grown like corn stalks in damp soil. Others take care of me now. And that's a fine thing. But it's not the same as having one's own flesh and blood to cradle one toward the grave. I long to hold my own children, and their children if they exist, and I miss them the way I'd miss limbs from my own body.


From The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill ©2007. Published by HarperCollins Canada.

Author interviews

"The Book of Negroes" author Lawrence Hill shares his thoughts on the n-word in literature. 7:22
On the eve of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, Lawrence Hill talks about his award-winning book. 15:15
Lawrence Hill's tale of slavery and suffering wins <em>Canada Reads</em> 2009. 27:26

More about this book

Debra Arbec speaks with Lawrence Hill, who will be screening an episode of The Book of Negroes miniseries at McGill University for Black History Month. 4:35
Writer Lawrence Hill meets Queen Elizabeth when The Book of Negroes wins the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best book. 5:01
A Dutch group is threatening to burn Lawrence Hill's award-winning novel The Book of Negroes, because they oppose the use of the word "negro" in the title. 2:17