Book Of Negroes

Decent Essays

The Book of Negroes and A Boy Called Nam are two influential pieces of Canadian literature. Published in 2007, Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes is a historic fiction while A Boy Called Nam, written in 1984 by Leo Heaps, is based on a true story. The Book of Negroes chronicles the fictional life of Aminata Diallo from the time she is kidnapped from her West African village and sent to colonial America as a slave to her eventual journey to freedom. Conversely, A Boy Called Nam is about a ten-year-old Vietnamese refugee, his survival of the shipwrecking of his refugee boat, which kills everyone else on board, and his new life in Canada. To better understand the two literary works, a reader must examine the authors’ life in addition to the text. …show more content…

From a young age, Lawrence Hill was immersed in the history of black Canadians because of his parents. In 1978, his parents co-founded the Ontario Black History Society with the aim of fostering a greater awareness and appreciation of the history of people of African descent in Canada (Ashenburg, par. 9). As a result, Hill discovered the real Book of Negroes which was a document that listed the names of the Black Loyalists who were granted freedom and settled in Nova Scotia following the American Revolutionary War (Ashenburg, par. 26). This document would later become the basis of his own novel of the same name. Wanting to learn more on the subject, Hill made three trips to West Africa as a volunteer with Canadian Crossroads International. There, he lived and worked in small villages alongside the local population (Crossroads International, par. 8). He immersed himself into the various cultures around him and met a Muslim polygamist family who introduced him to Islam (Crossroads International, par. 8). The insights that he developed forms an integral part of his novel, The Book of Negroes. The main character, Aminata Diallo, is from the small village of Bayo in West Africa and prior to her enslavement, leads the same simple village life that Hill experienced. Aminata is also Muslim and although she is not in a polygamous relationship, the “[village] chief has four wives” (Hill, 19). In addition to this, Hill’s in-depth understanding of West African cultures is evident throughout the novel. The serving of mint tea when Aminata and her parents want to share stories together is a common tradition in many West African villages and Hill himself most likely encountered it. He also includes passages such as: “I could tell by the way the pail was balanced near the front of her head…that she was a Bamana” which demonstrates his ability to

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