Apr 072009
Authors: kelly bleck

In his historical novel, Lawrence Hill delves into the complexity and hardships of Aminata Diallo, born a free African, stolen and sold in South Carolina and intermixed in the fight for freedom and ultimately abolition.

A heart-rending introduction places Aminata in her present situation, involved with the abolitionists appealing to King George in London, 1802. Her life has led to this moment, but her story was not told until the second chapter.

Beginning with her childhood in Bayo, Africa, 1745, Aminata is a free-born Muslim. She has previously heard of the white men who have travelled to Africa and has been warned of them.

But because of her innocence and the village’s inexperience, she and her mother are caught unaware while traveling. Aminata is taken away with some others from her village and brought to a slave ship bound for America.

The events that unfurled from the moment Aminata was abducted are used as a testament to the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery. Both her mother and father are murdered before her eyes, she witnesses many forms of cruelty she’d never been exposed to while traveling to the ship, and the passage becomes a type of hell for her and the other slaves.

Hill illuminates the tale of slavery explained in history books and autobiographies, including how labor slaves were used and what was expected of them within a household.

Aminata is subject to many horrors because she is a girl, and a beautiful one at that. Placing such a character at the center of slavery emphasizes aspects that may have gone unnoticed when using a male slave as the narrator.

The story follows her trials and tribulations through the initial selling in South Carolina. Aminata has not been educated in reading, writing or anything regarding the western world.

Hill emphasizes her innocence, detailing each lesson she must learn and what other slaves, having been born in America or been there for years, now understand and teach Aminata. She faces cruelty and kindness at the hands of her masters, but ultimately she dreams of returning to Africa.

The story line is a fictional account, but has the aura of being based off of other slavery accounts. It rings of truth, adding credibility and an emotional factor that makes the narrative almost unbelievable.

Aminata is sold to a house away from her husband and her child is taken from her, but she is also learns to read, write and count. Despite the downfalls thrown into her life, she strives to achieve and learn, becoming better and stronger than before.

Because Hill creates such a believable character, her life experiences become believable. Eventually escaping to Nova Scotia, Aminata returns to Africa. Eventually the story comes full circle as Aminata follows the abolitionist movement to London.

This is an amazing book that generates a believable, heartfelt character who becomes a voice and vision for her people, despite being taken from her home and enslaved.

Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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