Someone Knows My Name

Someone Knows My Name

by Lawrence Hill


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Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. "Wonderfully written...populated by vivid characters and rendered in fascinating detail." —Nancy Kline, New York Times Book Review

Kidnapped from Africa as a child, Aminata Diallo is enslaved in South Carolina but escapes during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan she becomes a scribe for the British, recording the names of blacks who have served the King and earned their freedom in Nova Scotia. But the hardship and prejudice of the new colony prompt her to follow her heart back to Africa, then on to London, where she bears witness to the injustices of slavery and its toll on her life and a whole people. It is a story that no listener, and no reader, will ever forget.

Published in Canada as The Book of Negroes and the basis for the award-winning BET miniseries of the same name.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393333091
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/10/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 103,132
Product dimensions: 8.24(w) x 5.42(h) x 1.29(d)

About the Author

Lawrence Hill is the author of several novels including Someone Knows My Name, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was nominated in the United States for the Huston Wright Legacy Award. In 2015 Hill was appointed to the Order of Canada “for his contributions as an author and activist who tells the stories of Canada’s black community and of women and girls in Africa.” A graduate of the Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he lives in Ontario, Canada.

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Someone Knows My Name 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 278 reviews.
cadxo More than 1 year ago
I recently read this book as a part of a literature circle assignment in my English class. To be quite honest, when I first received the book, it did not look that interesting to me. However, I must say that I was definitely proven wrong. Everyone in my group enjoyed this read. This is one of, if not the best book that I have ever read. The reader has no choice but to sympathize with the novel's protagonist - Aminata Diallo. Hill's writing style makes the novel very easy to read and the pages quickly go by. If you want a very interesting read that will touch your heart, this is the book for you.
nancymitchell More than 1 year ago
The author really did his homework in order to write this beautiful, thoroughly interesting and sad story. This is Aminata Diallo's story but she is only one of so many who suffered in history and had to fight to live. This book tells the story of all aspects of African American history through her story, of the horrors of slavery, revolution, grief, rage, death, slave-trading, the BOOK OF NEGROES, where the names of African Americans who were given passage to Canada on British ships because of their service in the American Revolution. There's inhumanity through such evil treatment exposed, ugly exploitation, broken many wonderful quotes. "Beware of the clever man who makes wrong look right." That's a scary statement! This is a heart-wrenching journey that bares being publicized and taken to heart. This is magnificent!
Tam3038 More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down from the first page. Lawrence Hill's writing style in the voice of Aminata Diallo is fantastic. This book is intense, both sad AND heart-warming. I wanted to wrap my arms around Aminata and hug her and be her friend. I've never had an interest in historical novels, but this was fantastic. Mr. Hill did very thorough research of this time period and using the main character, all who read this can feel what it was like to have been a slave, ripped from your parents, always longing for home. I have recommended it to many. I am very surprised Oprah hasn't made this a book club pick. This is one of THE best books I've ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone that cares for their fellow man. It should be required reading for high school students. I could not find this book under the title of "The Book of Negroes," which is the book I have from my Canadian friend. Must be that in Canada, that is the title.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beware when you start this book--you'll forget to eat, sleep or anything else until the last page is finished. Mr. Hill has certainly done his homework (how a Canadian man can channel an 18th Century African woman is one of the miracles of this book). The characters fully inhabit the page (and threaten to walk right off it) and one's imagination.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of this writer, but will add him to my list of faves. My sisters and i started a book club because of this book. learning new things and reminding me of ways and times gone by a must read, page turner!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy Read that you don't want to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Should be mandatory reading for Black History Month in every high school.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it, went to web site of author. Last section of book helped explain how he got this wonderful material.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was terrific from beginning to end. Though not always easy to read due to subject manner, it was handled with honesty and compassion. The story of a woman's life, her struggles to survive and surmount her circumstances and to teach/convey the realities of slavery were brought out through superb writing. The author offered a wonderful balance of factual research, compassion and understanding of this woman's trials and unimaginable journey. I highly recommend this book to anyone enjoys a good book.
eclecticreaderNC More than 1 year ago
This book was riveting. It was so well written and researched. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys books with great character development.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a brilliant book! Couldnt put it down. The characters are real, you suffer along with them and also feel their soaring joys. Mr. Hill has done a fantastic job!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Beautifully written. Painful yet heartfelt to read.
kristi17 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great story about one woman's life as a slave during the Revolutionary war. Highly recommended if you like historical fiction and a strong female voice.
KObooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story begins during the early 1800¿s of a now old Aminata Diallo who recounts her story to British Parliament in an effort to help the abolitionists put an end to the slave trade. Her story begins in 1745 and at the young age of 11 years old, Aminata is captured and sold. While the story itself is fiction, the historical circumstances are painfully true. The author does an amazing job, although difficult to read, of describing her capture, her months of walking in shackles to the coast, and her trip across the Atlantic Ocean aboard a slave ship. The horror is unimaginable. I almost stopped reading it. What good is it if you survive or die? After the journey across sea, she is barely alive and her story has only begun. I feel conflicted about this book because while it is very well written and an intense story, I found it almost unbearable to read. Recommended but not as light reading.
haidadareads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best historical fiction books I've read in a long time. The author creates a beautifully woven epic about a young African girl name Aminata who is kidnapped and sold into slavery off the Ivory Coast in the 1700s predating the American Revolution. After a long life of struggle to become free, Aminata made London her home where she retells her life story to British abolitionists and the English parliament. At 11 years old, she was kidnapped by slave trader. Amazingly she survived the middle passage along the Atlantic ocean and was sold to an Indigo plantation owner in South Carolina. She catches on quickly to producing Indigo and learning the native language of the "toubauhs" where she befriends and teaches others how to read and write. Aminata was also known as the "baby catcher" using her midwifery skills taught to her by her mother at an early age. She falls in love with a young boy who survived the passage with her and desires to be free. Ultimately as Aminata becomes more cultivated, she "befriends anyone who can help her, black or white" who can help her get to freedom in Nova Scotia. Her long journey has readers following her from the thirteen colonies to Canada, back to Africa and at last to London. Reading this tale pulls so many emotions from you; tension, sadness, cheer, all in one book. I literally felt like Ms. Celie in the Color Purple reading the letters from her sister imagining the beat of the drums and visualizing the most heartening details. Not the average slave tale.
creighley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Realistic, poignant character from fiction outline the horrors of the slave trade in the U.S.
GCPLreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Unrolling a map of the world, I would put one finger on a dot I had drawn to represent my village of Bayo, put another finger on London and say: "I was born there, and we are here now, and I'm going to tell you all about what happened in between."Someone Knows My Name tells a compelling story of Aminata, an African girl captured by slave traders in the late 18th century. "Meena"'s journey is tragic and remarkable, and I became completely enthralled with her odyssey. I also learned quite a bit about Britain's role in the post-Colonial America slave trade. While not as literary (complex, themes, figurative language) as The Known World and The Book of Night Women, 2 novels of slavery I admire, this is an easy-to-read, fantastic book. --highly recommended
tangledthread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a long narrative of a woman, Aminata Diallo, stolen as a child from her home in Africa and sold into slavery. She entered North America through South Carolina in the 1750's. The story is told in the voice of Aminata as a free woman living in Britain and helping abolitionists at the end of her life.Her story is one of a remarkable woman suffering relentless pain and repeated betrayal and loss in her time on the islands of the South Carolina shore, in Charleston, then in New York, and finally in Nova Scotia as one of the Black Loyalists who helped the British during the Revolutionary War. A son is stolen from her as a slave in South Carolina and almost 20 years later in Nova Scotia a daughter is stolen from her as a free woman.With the loss of her daughter, she gives up hope of regaining any of her losses in North America and finds a way to return to Africa under a British repatriation movement. In her time in Sierra Leone, she learns the universal truth that one can never return to the home of one's youth. And with this, she goes to London to tell her story in the service to the Abolitionist movement.For the most part, the story is well written and the words flow beautifully. Aminata is almost superhuman in her ability to pick up varying languages, learn to read, and withstand heartbreak and loss. The book Gulliver's Travels is referred to several times in the story ans she is indeed somewhat of a Gulliver. There were a few sections where the language seemed too contemporary. This is true of the Aminata's time on the indigo plantation where the woman who takes her in seems to speak in a contemporary voice. Also the use of the phrase "are you ok" was not in common usage until the time period that would have been the end of the book. The book was originally released under the name The Book of Negroes, which is an actual historical document related to the Black Loyalists who settled in Nova Scotia. That is a very small part of the book. The U.S. title of Someone Knows My Name seems to fit the scope of the book better. If the actual Book of Negroes was the inspiration of the author, I wonder that he didn't choose to use the device of several people named in that book and their intersecting and diverging stories.
amandacb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was one of those excellently written, poetic books that just makes one so depressed yet grateful to have read it. It's about slaves coming from Africa; there is a little bit about the protagonist's life in Africa beforehand, but not much. She moves from the coast of Africa to the islands to places in America to Canada; it's an exhausting journey, and she shows remarkable courage and fortitude. The pain and suffering she and others had to endure was difficult to read. However, it is highly recommended.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of my book clubs' book for this month and I have to be honest, I was not looking forward to reading it at all. Books dealing with slavery are always painful and I find them hard to read in February, the greyest, bleakest month of the year. How ridiculous to moan about the weather making me feel not prepared for a desperate book, no? Certainly my life is pretty cushy and the main character, stolen from her homeland and sold into slavery, facing hardship and horror, should have had it so easy, right? But I felt that way, resistant to the book. So it's a good thing that book club obligated me to read this because it really was a marvelous read and certainly one that is fantastic for book clubs.Aminata Diallo is eleven and on the verge of becoming a woman. She helps her mother catch babies in their village and neighboring villages. She is pretty happy and generally doted upon by her parents. But one evening, returning from delivering a baby, she and her mother are set upon by strange men and Aminata is stolen, her mother killed. As she is forced past her village, she witnesses her father's brutal death as well. After a three month trek, she arrives at a slave trading post on the coast and ultimately embarks on a slaver journeying to America, specifically South Carolina. This book covers Aminata's, called Meena, incredible life. From a free young girl in Africa to a slave in the southern US and ultimately a free woman in the north who chooses to use her incredible intelligence to carve out a life for herself both in the US and Canada and back in Africa and to become a potent symbol for the abolitionists in London. The scope of the novel is immense but it works. In focusing in on one main character, Hill has personalized history that makes us uncomfortable, history that we've forgotten, and history that we choose to forget or to ignore.Meena is an amazing woman and she is incredibly gifted, learning languges like a sponge, picking up monetary systems, and practicing midwifery and some natural medicine in order to increase her value. Slavery is portrayed brutally, although Aminata, while suffering it, certainly doesn't have the appalling existence that some slaves did, thanks in large part to her skill in becoming whoever her current master wants. She faces the heartbreak common to slaves where family is torn from her and friends who have become a makeshift family themselves also disappear forever. Her desire for someone to know who she is, what her experience is, and to see into the truth of her soul is agonizing.Highlighting the issues of survival and identity, strength and love, trust and despair, this book never shies away from the true horrors of existence as a slave and even as a free black woman dependent on the duplicitousness of the white community that wants to use her. Hill has written a marvelous and historically important book. My only quibble with it was really at the end when an unbelievable coincidence changed the tone of the book a bit abruptly. Aside from that, the writing was engrossing and Aminata was a wonderful character. Even as thick as the book is, it takes no time at all to be so comsumed by the plot and characters that you'll have a hard time putting it down. Highly recommended reading.Incidentally, in Hill's native Canada, this was titled The Book of Negroes. For some reason, the publisher felt compelled to change the title here in the US but the replacement title does reflect the story very well.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely enthralling; Aminata is a wonderful, fully rendered, strong character, whose personality and will to survive pulls the reader in immediately.
yocmas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bought the book, brouht the book home. Decide to look at the first few pages. (just to see how the narrative started) Several hours and a hundred pages later still reading the book. It's easy to follow and You immediately care about Your Characters.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aminata is only eleven years old when she is kidnapped by slave traders and forced to march to the Atlantic ocean, miles from her small village, to be branded, sold and put on a slave ship to South Carolina. Aminata has been trained by her mother as a midwife to ¿catch babies¿ and has also had some education¿both skills which help her to survive. Thus begins Lawrence Hill¿s engrossing slave narrative Someone Knows My Name (known as The Book of Negroes outside of the United States). The novel spans a period of more than forty years and is narrated in the voice of Aminata (aka: Meena) who describes her life aboard a slave ship, living on an indigo plantation in South Carolina, as an escaped slave in New York, and later as an immigrant to Nova Scotia when the British government moved thousands of blacks there with promises of freedom. Aminata eventually returns ¿home¿ to Africa ¿ specifically to Sierra Leone, later called Freetown. But her journey does not end there. As a literate black woman who has survived the most unimaginable terror and treatment, she agrees to go to London to work with the abolitionists trying to outlaw the slave trade.Aminata¿s story is horrific. Hill spares no details of the cruel treatment of slaves aboard the slave ships or at the hands of white plantation owners. The reader experiences the grief of women who lost their children to slavery¿often before the age of two years old; the terror of rape and abuse; the longing to be free. In many ways, this is a difficult novel to read.Near the platform stood a group of Africans, some barely able to stand and others with pus dripping from sores on their legs. Five of them looked like they would not regret the closing fist of death. I felt my stomach churning, my throat tightening. I looked down to avoid meeting their eyes. I was fed, and they were not. I had clothes, and they had none. I could do nothing to change their prospects or even my own. That, I decided, was what it meant to be a slave: your past didn¿t matter; in the present you were invisible and you had no claim on the future. ¿ from Someone Knows My Name, page 189 -Hill¿s research and the historical background of the novel is impecable. He explains in an afterword:In terms of the sheer number of people recorded and described, the actual Book of Negroes is the largest single document about black people in North America up until the end of the eighteenth century. It contains the names and details of 3,000 black men, women and children, who, after serving or living behind British lines during the American Revolutionary War, sailed from New York City to various British colonies. ¿ page 471 -In Aminata, Hill gives a voice to the thousands of blacks who were enslaved in the latter part of the eighteenth century and in this way, the novel becomes more than just an historical document, but instead becomes a personal story of one woman¿s courage and determination. Hill¿s novel is really a family saga immersed in an historical time period.I cannot say I enjoyed this book ¿ but I feel I am a better person for having read it. Hill¿s narrative is well written and stunning. Aminata¿s story is one which we should not forget.Highly recommended.
DubaiReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Also published as The Book of Negroes.This was a very readable account of the sufferings and abuse of slaves taken from Africa in the second half of the eighteenth century.Their struggles were represented by Aminata Diallo who we meet at the beginning of the book as an old woman helping the abolitionists fight for the termination of slave importation to Britain.In order to support the cause Aminata (known as Meena) writes her life story and it is this account that we read in the succeeding pages.She was abducted from her villiage in the interior of Africa, where Whites, or Toubabu, had never been seen but were widely feared. At the age of eleven she was forced to walk for 3 months to reach the coast where the slave ships waited. She was branded with the name of her owner and forced on board a ship whose stench could be smelt for miles away.In America Meena worked on an indigo plantation, but also used the skills she'd learned from her mother, a midwife. She learned the use of medicinal herbs through Georgia, who took her in and nursed her to health after the arduous crossing. She also learned to read from the overseer, who noticed a spark in her. Reading was strongly forbidden amongst the slaves and had to be done in secret.From here, circumstances took her to Charlestown, New York and on to Nova Scotia in Canada where freed slaves who had fought for the British were offered a 'new life'. Finally the oportunity come to return to Africa, occupying an area of Sierra Leone known as Freetown. Many of those settling down here had never set foot on African soil; they had been born under slavery in foreign lands.The book is filled with details of the struggle of slaves at this time and the apalling way that they were often treated, but it also glows with joyous times and friendships, sharing and hope.And there was a wonderful quote from Jonathan Swift, writing about the failings of the cartographers of Africa who had no idea what was in the interior of the country:So geographers, in Afric-mapsWith savage-pictures fill their gapsAnd o'er uninhabitable downsPlace elephants for want of towns.Highly recommended.