Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
(W.W. Norton & Company, 2007, 489 pages)
Someone Knows My Name is also known by another title, Book of Negroes, which is the title it was originally published with in Canada. Aminata is kidnapped from Africa as a young child and sold into slavery. This book is meant to be the story of her life told from her perspective. The book starts off in the early 1800s with Aminata as an elderly woman in London who is there in support of abolitionism. She then reflects back on how she came to be in the circumstances she’s in today.
Aminata’s story takes us from Africa to North America. We experience the inhumane conditions of life onboard a slave ship in addition to being exposed to what life was like as a slave in North America. Aminata was fortunate that her intelligence was noted, she was taught to read and write and this enabled her to really move ahead in the world. Eventually she was enlisted by the British Army to write in the Book of Negroes, a record of all those people of color who went to fight on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War.
A unique aspect of this book is that it touches on an aspect of history that isn’t often recounted in slave literature. We journey with Aminata to Nova Scotia where she is promised freedom but is faced with still more hardship. From here she is finally able to fulfill her dream of returning to Africa as she travels with many other Nova Scotians to settle in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, reality has a way of shattering the dreams we thought we had…
I liked this book and would recommend it if you’re a fan of historical fiction. I wouldn’t say it was the best book I’ve read on the topic, but I really appreciated the different perspective Hill offered. It made me reflect on slave narratives I read in the past and would like to revisit in addition to reminding me to pick up a number of books relating to this subject that have been on my to-read list for quite some time.
P.S. This book was made into a mini-series on BET which you may have heard of.