The Book of Negroes

From the perfectly fitting writing style and captivating characters to weaving literature with history through new perspectives, there are many qualities the novel, The Book of Negroes, encapsulates leaving it as a memorable piece in modern literature. However, while teaching readers about the history of the slave trade among various other historical occurences, the author Lawrence Hill focuses on accentuating a woman’s journey of self exploration and her path to empowerment.

 

Aminata Diallo transforms and grows from her various experiences but in an interesting way that allows her to remain true to who she is. She travels various places and acquires wisdom from all the people she meets. Her journey in every sense is a literal journey where she travels across the sea too many times to count. But the real adventure is that through all her trials, she is on a journey to finding herself again and learning more about her potential. The process of picking up the pieces and mending herself back together allows her to discover who she is. From losing herself, she is able to find the “self” that she lost the night when she was captured. She is given a new identity, “A new name for the second life of a girl who survived the great river crossings,” (pg127). But she successfully is able to reclaim her old life again through her journey of self exploration. This determination of reclaiming her old life is shown with, “The power of the spoken word,” when she shares her story. The powerful messages of her story easily embed in my heart.

 

Her story is an amalgamation of strength, determination, love, and beauty that inspires me as a global citizen and as a growing woman. By firmly standing behind her values in an age and culture where women are not allowed to make their own decisions, Aminata is able to blend across different time periods and be a great example of what a feminist is in our modern time. Her resilience and steadfast loyalty to her own beliefs is the definition of what many women are coming forward to stand for today. For instance, when she makes decisions, she does what she believes is the right thing and is not easily swayed by other’s influences. Various times she displays this strength of staying true to who she is. Her marriage with Chekura was a reaffirming statement in that “[She] married the man she loved,” (pg 174). She did not let the circumstances of being enslaved or Appleby’s threats get in the way of fulfilling a value that was very meaningful for her. Furthermore, during the time and culture where she was brought up, many decisions like marriage were often made for her and not by herself. However, despite the risks and consequences that follow, she continues to go with her heart. The courage to be herself and to be able to use the bad experiences as an extension to be better person despite all the terrible things that have happened is exactly what makes her so admirable and a beautiful role model. Her defining characteristics are wonderful examples of how to conquer obstacles and to maximize personal potential. Even as a fictional character, she represents many courageous women who stood for what they believe in. It is very difficult to fight the strong tide of society sometimes, but her power inspires me to continually try to allow my personal voice to speak through.

 

Following her through her experiences, I felt this urge to do something and say something because of all the profound emotions I found myself experiencing. While unconsciously learning through character development and the exploration of many fundamental themes of a tale that is one with history, each page is a piece of the past and the truth. This book is a combination of an intellectual and emotional stimulant, but the real treasure is that it resonates a living message to take action. Through Aminata, I have the ability to see women around the world who live in circumstances where they are oppressed and dominated by men. I see the children and families destroyed by the inhumane treatment inflicted by others. I see the unending cycle of greed and how it ties into the slave trade of the past but also the human trafficking of now. Her story is a catalyst for change, for development of human rights, for the growth of women’s voices. Her story is the connection between my willingness to fight for women’s rights and the understanding of what women in the past and present live through in a society where they are not valued. Lawrence Hill effectively demonstrates his passion for the advancement and empowerment of women by pouring life into Aminata. Her life isn’t just for reading but for understanding.

 

This book catalyzes my growth in regards to strength and purpose. Perhaps in the future I may forget what Aminata went through, but I will not forget her words and how they make me feel. I was with her on her journey every step of the way. I felt the uncontrollable throbbing of anger with the cruelty humans treat one another with. But I also felt the soaring thumps of my heart with the joy of knowing when those who are lost, Aminata and May, are found. Their fight for justice, catalyzes my determination to make a difference. After going through some personal trials in my life both physically and emotionally, this story allows me to firmly believe that everything does happen for a reason and that there is nothing we are not strong enough to handle. Aminata’s story starts off rocky but as a whole, she is a fundamental character in the battle against slavery. Without her experiencing suffering, she would not have been able to empathize with others who were enslaved and fight the way she does for freedom. Similarly, without the personal circumstances that jumble up my life, I would not have been able to find the joy in making others smile. In the case of this novel, suffering led to Aminata’s purpose and like her, my purpose was discovered through growing past obstacles. This revelation allows me to completely immerse in this story because of the similar emotions both Aminata and I went through when tackling challenges. Making this connection to a fictional character, reformed my mindset. No longer am I alone but I am bond to others through a cycle of understanding. Just like when Aminata looked into the eyes of asylum seeking slaves, she saw their stories colliding with hers. And with all these pivotal moments there comes feelings that are everlasting. There is simply nothing more breathtaking when a book anchors itself into real life because the story may fade one day, but the change that accompanies those reading is everlasting. Now as I move forward in life and experience harder trials, I will not be disheartened because I will remember Aminata. I will apply the lessons I have learned to be the best human being and global citizen I can be.

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