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Someone Knows My Name: A Novel Paperback – November 17, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 486 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (November 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393333094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393333091
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (407 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Stunning, wrenching and inspiring, the fourth novel by Canadian novelist Hill (Any Known Blood) spans the life of Aminata Diallo, born in Bayo, West Africa, in 1745. The novel opens in 1802, as Aminata is wooed in London to the cause of British abolitionists, and begins reflecting on her life. Kidnapped at the age of 11 by British slavers, Aminata survives the Middle Passage and is reunited in South Carolina with Chekura, a boy from a village near hers. Her story gets entwined with his, and with those of her owners: nasty indigo producer Robinson Appleby and, later, Jewish duty inspector Solomon Lindo. During her long life of struggle, she does what she can to free herself and others from slavery, including learning to read and teaching others to, and befriending anyone who can help her, black or white. Hill handles the pacing and tension masterfully, particularly during the beginnings of the American revolution, when the British promise to free Blacks who fight for the British: Aminata's related, eventful travels to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone follow. In depicting a woman who survives history's most trying conditions through force of intelligence and personality, Hill's book is a harrowing, breathtaking tour de force. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A masterpiece, daring and impressive in its geographic, historical and human reach.” (Globe and Mail)

“Lawrence Hill's hugely impressive historical work is completely engrossing and deserves a wide, international readership.” (Delia Jarrett-Macauley - Washington Post)

“With grace and compassion, Hill populates true and harrowing experience with an authentic hero—just as good historical fiction requires.” (Jennifer Berman - Bookforum)

“I found myself surprised on occasion to catch sight of Mr. Hill's name on the cover.... He had me believing that this tale came not from the imagination and research of a 21st-century male author, but from the experience of an 18th-century African woman.” (Kim Lundstrom - Real Change)

“An inspirational novel of imaginative excellence and captivating power.... Every step of the way, Lawrence Hill offers readers a vivid portrayal of the emotional landscape that brings Aminata's tale to life. I highly recommend reading this poignant book.” (Charles Shea LeMone - Roanoke Times)

“Astonishing in scope, humanity and beauty, this is one of those very rare novels in which the deep joy of reading transcends its time and place. Like ?To Kill a Mockingbird?, ?Someone Knows My Name? lets readers experience a life, one footstep at a time, beside an unforgettable protagonist.” (Eileen Charbonneau - Historical Novels Review)

“Stunning, wrenching and inspiring.... Hill handles the pacing and tension masterfully... [his] book is a harrowing, breathing tour de force.” (Publishers Weekly)

More About the Author

Lawrence Hill is the author of the novels "Someone Knows My Name," "Any Known Blood" and "Some Great Thing" and of the nonfiction work "The Deserter's Tale" (with Joshua Key). He lives in Ontario, Canada.

Customer Reviews

A very believable story, well written.
Jackie Oglesby
I've read many other novels and taken history courses that deal with slavery, and this novel gave a different dimension to the slave experience.
Susan Genereux
Our book club of nine all enjoyed reading and discussing this novel and agreed that we would all recommend it to friends.
Coleen Conlon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Brown Girl VINE VOICE on May 22, 2007
The actual Book of Negroes is an amazing historical document (a British military ledger) that contains the names and descriptions of 3,000 men, women, and children who served or were supported by the British during the American Revolutionary War. Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes is a brilliantly imagined novel based on the document of the same name and the events surrounding the relocation of thousands of Black Loyalists to various British colonies and eventually to Sierra Leone after the conflict. Similar in approach to The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Hill's offering spans the lifetime of the fictional Aminata (Meena) Diallo, an African born woman who escaped to freedom.

At the beginning of the novel Meena is in London, an old woman who has lived a tumultuous life. At the urging of her abolitionist sponsors, she is asked to pen her story which would be used as evidence depicting the cruelty and inhumanity of the slave trade. Meena, an intelligent, educated woman, authors her autobiography via vivid flashbacks through time. She writes, "Let me begin with a caveat to any and all who find these pages. Do not trust large bodies of water, and do not cross them. If you, dear reader, have an African hue and find yourself led toward water with vanishing shores, seize your freedom by any means necessary." She continues and details her life as a young child in an African village, her capture and Middle Passage crossing, enslavement while in America, relocation to Nova Scotia, return to Africa (Freetown, Sierra Leone), and partnering with abolitionists in England.

However to summarize the book in such a way is a huge understatement - it is steeped in historical facts that educate and enlighten the reader; I was pulled in immediately after reading the opening passages.
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Format: Hardcover
Thanks to the storytelling skills of one who has the vision to imagine one female's journey through decades of slavery, revolution and abolitionist fervor, once more the silent rise from the depths to howl their grief, rage and spirit. Born a free Muslim in her village, Aminata Diallo leaves childhood behind, as well as the dead bodies of her father and mother, captured by slave-traders, chained to others on a months' long trek to the ship that will carry this valuable cargo across the ocean to the American colonies. Bereft, Aminata stands horrified as dead slaves are tossed overboard or leap from despair into the waiting sea.

Taught by her mother to "catch babies", the girl delivers two infants during the course of the voyage, but death strikes once again on a shipboard uprising, white men and Africans butchered in a melee of impromptu weapons and deadly "firesticks". The sights and smells of this ordeal remain imprinted on Aminata's soul, the past severed as she is thrust into a new, forbidding world. At an indigo plantation in South Carolina, Aminata learns more harsh lessons of slavery, the humiliation of belonging to someone far more powerful and unpredictable, introduced to cruelty, degradation, love and motherhood, stripped finally of all she holds dear. Brilliant and curious, "Meena" learns to hide her accomplishments behind the façade of obedience. Even in her darkest moments of despair, Meena holds fast to the truth- she was born free and belongs to no one.

In such a story, the telling of truth is burdened with outrage: man's inhumane treatment of those they would exploit, the onus of slavery through centuries, the capacity for evil in the pursuit of profit. In Meena, we witness the toll on one human life.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on August 31, 2007
Verified Purchase
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 the night. The conditions on the slave ship were abysmal: the Africans were jammed together and shackled most of the time, lacking food and water and sanitation, leading to exhaustion, infections and starvation. Many lost their minds, many more died. When the captives arrived in North America they were traded and sold like cattle and their suffering continued.

The brutality of the West African slave trade in which millions of Africans perished is well documented. However, when a knowledgeable and perceptive novelist transforms these records and the many personal accounts of cruelty and tragedy on the one hand and survival, perseverance and hope on the other into one inclusive narrative around one memorable character, the realities of the many merge into one rich and lively, heart wrenching and joyful history-based novel of exceptional beauty and power.

First we meet Aminata Diallo, the heroine of The Book of Negroes, as a frail old woman, yet with a fiery spirit and resolve that she must have had all her life. Hill's novel lets her relate her story in her own voice, direct and uncomplicated, yet subtle and insightful.
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