Friday, February 4, 2011

Someone Knows My Name

Title: Someone Knows My Name
Author: Lawrence Hill
Year: 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1

Oh, 2007. What a good year for the literary world.
Told in stunning and heartbreaking detail, Someone Knows My Name is a beautiful story of a young African woman ripped from her homeland and forced into slavery. Although this topic is a common enough one, Lawrence Hill takes a different angle: Aminata, or Meena, is a Black Loyalist. Hill portrays a beautiful story in an impeccably written format, giving us a treasure to enjoy no matter how many times we read it.
The story begins in the tiny African village of Bayo, where Aminata lived with her parents happily. She is the daughter of two different tribes, and because her parents learned different languages, Aminata is able to speak both Fula and Bamanankan. She often accompanies her mother to different villages in her profession of midwifery, and on one such occasion, tragedy struck. Aminata is kidnapped and taken to the coast in a long, horror-filled march.
She boards a boat for the terrible crossing to America, the description of which is covered in mud, darkness, blood, and despair. During this time, we see Aminata's gentle innocence slowly disappear, and she speaks with a clear, mature voice throughout the entire book. Aminata is greatly wronged throughout the story; her first child is stolen and sold after only a few months of nursing, and her husband is perpetually lost to her, always working on a different plantation. Her second child is stolen by a white couple and is lost to her. She is beaten, nearly raped, and always being abused. But she keeps her mind and her intelligence.
The story follows Aminata from Bayo to Canada, her story always resonating in beautiful descriptions. Her character changes throughout the book, but as her father says in the beginning of the book, "Strength stays forever." The strength that her parents passed to her remains, and even if she weeps in despair, she always stands back up. She is a heroine truly worth knowing. Even when she escapes to the north, she knows that she is not safe, and must always fight for her freedom. And we weep in grief or cheer in triumph as her story unfolds.
The boo runs a little lengthy at 470 pages, but the entire story relates a true world. With many books, there are too many emotional descriptions and not enough about the setting, but Someone Knows My Name does not fall into that category. The world of the Americas in the 18th century becomes clear and real to us, and we see enough of it to feel as if we are actually there alongside Aminata. Hill creates a beautiful cast of characters, from Chekura's determined nature to Georgia's mothering knowledge to Solomon Lindo's mercurial disposition. They feel real, as if one can really reach out and touch them.
All the while, I longed for Aminata to return to Bayo and her innocent childhood, just as she did. However, my mind tracked with hers; when she discovered that even by returning to her homeland, she could never regain the world with her parents she had known, I felt a dull aching in my heart. A longing unfulfilled. For when we want something, we want it the way we picture it, not the way it will actually be.
Because it's the winner of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, Someone Knows My Name should be available in most places. It is on eBooks, and I don't know how much it costs on the Kindle, but on the nook, it's very affordable. In paper copy, which is what I am fortunate enough to possess (:D), it is about $15.00, but I got it for $10.00 because it was on sale. But you should get your hands on this book as soon as you can; it's really amazing to read and experience.
That's it for today, ladies and gentlemen. Happy reading, my pageturners!
So geographers, in Afric-maps,
With savage-pictures fill their gaps;
And o'er uninhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.
--Jonathan Swift

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