The book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

I finished The Book of Negroes a couple of days ago, and here are my thoughts on it. And I am sorry there hasn't been much on the blog lately, I'm a lazy butt. 

The book follows Aminata Diallo from her childhood in Africa to her old age in England. Aminata is a freeborn Muslim who grows up with her mother and father in Bayo somewhere in today’s Guinea. She is taught by her mother to be a midwife and she is taught to read and write some Arabic by her dad. When Aminata is 11 her village is razed by slavers, both her parents die and she, along with the survivors of her village, is taken to the coast, I think in Sierra Leone, and from there sailed to North Carolina. The rest of the book is about her working as a slave in Charleston, then as a servant further north, before she runs away in New York and takes more control over her life.

It was an astounding read. It’s very hard to understand the horrors of slavery, because I mostly hear numbers and some descriptions, and I don’t really get it. And after a while I feel sort of numb. I always find it easier I guess, to grasp the true horror when I read the account of one person, or watch a movie about one person say.

This book follows Aminata, and it’s told in first person so you get all of her thoughts and feelings. It’s just awful to hear about the things she goes through. She is basically raped as a form of punishment, she is beaten, her head is shaved and she has all her possessions taken away. She is continually betrayed by her owners and bosses and by people she thought she could trust.

It was interesting to see the white western world through the eyes of an African Muslim. To see how weird our habits seem to people who aren’t from there. Something else I found interesting was how when people referred to Aminata’s homeland as Guinea she was just confused, because obviously they don’t use European names for their homeland. It was interesting to see how European culture and languages saturated Africa (also a name Europeans came up with), and took Africa from her people.

The book is very frank and blunt in its descriptions of everything that happens to her. Everything is so cold and so cruel and it made me cry and it felt sort of useless. It felt like the world was the worst place to exist and that all white people suck. They don’t obviously, but for a while it felt like that. Even the abolitionists were using these really bullshit justifications for why slavery had somehow helped Aminata. The wife of one abolitionist saying that since Aminata had been a slave she could read and write, several languages. And all I could think was… was that worth getting raped, beaten, betrayed, abandoned and crushed? Also, who ever said Aminata wanted to go to the States and read English and record the names of countless slaves? Maybe she just wanted to live her life? It really annoyed me. And I realize that an abolitionist wants to fight against slavery, and probably feel a need to justify their lives now that they want to help these people. Because we don’t want to be in the wrong, we want to be right and we don’t want to admit that we’ve done something monstrous. But it pissed me off.

I thought the resolution with Aminata and May felt a bit convenient, but it was also believable enough for me to just go, yeah okay. It was nice to have something nice happening for her. So while it’s a bit convenient I liked it. I liked the way it was told, I liked that it made me feel like throwing up and it made me hate everything, because you should always examine how you think and feel, so that’s good.


I really liked it. I thought it was interesting, and thought provoking and it was heart breaking, and beautiful. It was amazing.