"We will cry out always... so you don't forget us."
Jan 19, 2009
Thanks to the storytelling skills of one who has the vision to imagine one female's journey through decades of slavery, revolution and abolitionist fervor, once more the silent rise from the depths to howl their grief, rage and spirit. Born a free Muslim in her village, Aminata Diallo leaves childhood behind, as well as the dead bodies of her father and mother, captured by slave-traders, chained to others on a months' long trek to the ship that will carry this valuable cargo across the ocean to the American colonies. Bereft, Aminata stands horrified as dead slaves are tossed overboard or leap from despair into the waiting sea.
Taught by her mother to "catch babies", the girl delivers two infants during the course of the voyage, but death strikes once again on a shipboard uprising, white men and Africans butchered in a melee of impromptu weapons and deadly "firesticks". The sights and smells of this ordeal remain imprinted on Aminata's soul, the past severed as she is thrust into a new, forbidding world. At an indigo plantation in South Carolina, Aminata learns more harsh lessons of slavery, the humiliation of belonging to someone far more powerful and unpredictable, introduced to cruelty, degradation, love and motherhood, stripped finally of all she holds dear. Brilliant and curious, "Meena" learns to hide her accomplishments behind the façade of obedience. Even in her darkest moments of despair, Meena holds fast to the truth- she was born free and belongs to no one.
In such a story, the telling of truth is burdened with outrage: man's inhumane treatment of those they would exploit, the onus of slavery through centuries, the capacity for evil in the pursuit of profit. In Meena, we witness the toll on one human life. Somehow this courageous woman endures, making her way from Africa to South Carolina, New York, Nova Scotia, back to Africa and London. She catches babies from one continent to another, learning the falsity of promises and the impossibility of another voice to tell ones story: "Beware the clever man who makes wrong look right." Educated, well-spoken and determined, Aminata gathers languages to tell her tale to all who may listen, to Africans and abolitionists alike, of the Diaspora from her homeland to many countries, everywhere speaking her truth.
What Barry Unsworth did for the Middle Passage in Sacred Hunger, Lawrence Hill does for the suffering of slaves, shackled first to one another, then to their owners, even abolition serving the interests of trade before humanity. Aminata Diallo's story is personal, yet speaks for many, the devastating journey of a young girl from a stolen childhood to old age, her spirit undaunted in spite of those who would own or use her. To be reminded of this nightmare is to be reminded of the collective inhumanity of those who rationalize deeds to serve the god of profit; more importantly, Aminata celebrates the extraordinary courage of the human spirit in the face of evil. Luan Gaines.
I read the Canadian version of this book but hopefully it was the same. I'd like to see the American version to compare. It's difficult to believe that this is Lawrence Hill's first novel. It was extremely well written and was one of those books that was difficult to put down. I know this book is fiction but I also believe that Hill was probably not far off the mark on his treatment of the captives when they were wrenched from their homes. Their treatment on … more
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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