Lawrence Hill’s memorable historical novel, Someone Knows My Name, is a gripping account of Aminata Diallo’s tragic journey as a slave. Captured at age 11 from her West African village in 1756, Aminata is ripped from her family and thrown in with others as they march for several weeks to the ocean, chained together, barely fed or given time for personal needs. Arriving in Senegal and then enduring barbaric treatment aboard the slave ship, Aminata attempts to keep track of the few people also taken from her village. Though young, she realizes the importance of being remembered as a person and not chattel.
After the humiliation of being displayed and sold, Aminata’s first several years were spent on a Georgia indigo plantation. She is housed with an older woman, a midwife, and learns the skill of “baby catching.” Aminata is secretly tutored to read, almost unheard of in that day. Through the years she suffers one loss after another at the hands of her different owners. Still, she steadfastly retains her dignity and finds many uses for her language skills, baby catching and herbal-remedy competence.
Always, Aminata dreams of one day returning to her African village, but as she observes: “It was almost impossible to get into Africa, but easy to be taken out.”
As the Revolutionary War rages, it’s difficult from our perspective today to understand how Americans could be so irate over British control, yet think slavery was perfectly acceptable. Yet, that’s our history, a grim and horrifying truth so well stated in this novel.
I loved this book. For one thing, I spent two years in West Africa with the Peace Corps and wrote about my experiences in Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps. In Hill’s novel I heard many expressions and descriptions of places familiar to me. I was impressed with the author’s research and how well the story was presented. I found Lawrence Hill’s understanding of a woman’s perspective accurate and realistic. The book is a fine example of absorbing storytelling. I highly recommend
Someone Knows My Name.