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 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. (From HarperCollins)
The Book of Negroes won Canada Reads 2009 and was adapted into a six-part TV series for CBC. It also won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
Lawrence Hill is the author of several books, including The Illegal, Black Berry, Sweet Juice and Blood. The Illegal won Canada Reads 2016, when it was defended by Olympian Clara Hughes. He lives in Hamilton, Ont.
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From the book
I seem to have trouble dying. By all rights, I should not have lived this long. But I still can smell trouble riding on any wind, just as surely as I could tell you whether it is a stew of chicken necks or pigs' feet bubbling in the iron pot on the fire. And my ears still work just as good as a hound dog's. People assume that just because you don't stand as straight as a sapling, you're deaf. Or that your mind is like pumpkin mush. The other day, when I was being led into a meeting with a bishop, one of the society ladies told another, "We must get this woman into Parliament. Who knows how much longer she'll be with us?" Half bent though I was, I dug my fingers into her ribs. She let out a shriek and spun around to face me. "Careful," I told her, "I may outlast you!"
From The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill ©2007. Published by HarperCollins.