Book Club: The Book of Negroes

I will tell you right off the start that I sit here in amazement that Lori and Wendy were able to read this book in one month....took me three as I had to keep putting it down to let my thoughts and emotions take in what I was reading.

This is an emotionally intense well written book.   I first mentioned in this post.    LitLovers has given some questions to answer about this book which you can find here.   Not saying I'm going to answer them all either.   In Canada this book is published under the title Book Of Negroes , in the states it is called "Someone knows my Name".

2. What is your opinion about Hill's suggestion that Aminata's very youthfulness at the time of her abduction enables her emotional survival, even as some of the adults in her world show signs of crumbling?

Youth have a different take on things.   They are often more able to hunker down and deal with whatever is thrown at them.  Her youth also protected her from the advances of the men on board and gave her freedom to move around.   Most of the rest were simply kept in their area and expected to cope.  To go from complete freedom to being a messy, smelly, tight quarters on a ship with a never ending water line...that would be really hard for most adults to cope with.

3. The section of the book set in the sea islands of South Carolina depicts eighteenth-century indigo plantations where African American slaves and overseers are left largely to their own devices during the "sick season"—a good half of the year. To what degree does this cultural and social isolation allow for an interesting development and interaction of African American characters in the novel?

4. Aminata suffers some horrifying cruelties at the hands of her captors, but her relationships with her masters aren't always what you'd expect. How does Aminata's story reveal the complex ways that people react to unnatural, unequal relationships?

This fits with other things that I have read about slavery.  How some people formed good strong bonds with each other regardless of skin colour, whereas with others, skin colour was the defining issue on how they interacted with others.   I suspect though, the most cruel people, were also not nice to their white brethren either, having a tougher edge to them.  Nastiness attracts to each other.

5. During the course of the story, Aminata marries and has a family. Although she is separated from them, she is reunited from time to time with her husband and one of her children. What does the work tell us about the nature of love and loyalty?

Love and loyalty hold true you know?   People work with the situations they find themselves in.  Take for instance military spouses who have to cope without their partner for days on end...their love doesn't stop just because their partner isn't physically with them.  Aminata's situation was forced upon her, but that didn't change the nature of her love for her man.

6. Aminata struggles to learn and master all sorts of systems of communicating in the new world: black English, white English, and Gullah, as well as understanding the uses of European money and maps. How do her various coping mechanisms shed light on her character?

I think Aminata was an amazingly smart woman.  I think she would, given the proper education, outsmarted most people around her.   She used that brain of her to learn to talk like those around her, to assimilate the best she could into her environment.   Flexible but tough, smart but wise, just an amazing woman.

7. Aminata longs for her home. What is the meaning of home in the novel, and how does the meaning change as the novel progresses?

Who wouldn't long for their home, to go back to that safety and security?   People do that all the time.  Did you know that often children who grew up in the church and later left it, often when they marry and have children, find themselves drawn back to the church for the sake of their children?   They want their children to have that safety and security they had.   It's good to go home, to want the love and security you had as a child.  Of course as you mature you figure out what home really is.   For me, as much as I long to be on a farm with a bunch of critters around me... home I've learned is where my hubby and son are.   They center me and are part of my security.   Aminata learns the same.  Her home is not just Africa, but where she feels the most secure.

8. What does the novel tell us about survival? Which characters fare best and why?

 Survival... best done by those who can adapt to the circumstances they find themselves in.  Aminata did well, the lady who rescued her when she was so sick did well.  Finding a place, learning how to fit in and work within the system.   Learning to be tough and yet flexible.  This helps a person survive.

10. Aminata is a woman of extraordinary abilities—she is skillful with languages, literate, a speedy learner, a born negotiator. Why did Hill choose this story to be told by such a remarkable woman? What effect do her abilities have on the shaping of the story?

Why?   To show there is always hope.  There is always something that can be done and worked with even through horrific situations.

12. What lessons does Aminata's tale hold for us in today's world?
Hard one to answer eh?  Today's world is one of change and conflict.   Keeping one's head down and hunkering in until you know the lay of the land is probably a good rule of thumb to live by.   It's good though, to use your wits and your intelligence to learn the language and customs of the people you find yourself surrounded by and use that to make a way.

Being a person of faith though, you need more than just intelligence and wisdom to get by.   Faith gives a hope for things yet unseen.  Aminata has some hope that she will find her daughter, that she will find a place to truly call home.   She used her natural talents to good end.   Shouldn't we all do the same?   Use your natural talents, keep your faith and just keep moving forward.

So go on now... read the book club answers by  Lori and Wendy.   Perhaps next month you'll join us with Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children.


  1. Thank you for joining us, Annette! And for finding this gem of a book; I know Lori chose it because she'd seen your previous post about it.

    I appreciated your answers to these tough questions. I think your comparing Aminata to a military wife was especially profound.

    1. thank you Wendy... I know I enjoyed reading your thoughts as well. You book clubs are NOT intimidating at all. :) Actually rather fun.


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