I thought I would share this email I received from Mr. Hills secretary in reference to my blog reviewing his latest book.
Thanks very much for your note about The Book of Negroes, which I have passed on to Larry. He thanks you for writing a blog about the novel, and he is pleased that after your initial hesitation, you seem to have come to be a peace with the title. It was always been his expectation that a reader who travels all the way through the book will discover and be fascinated by the historical origins of the title. In fact, a "Book of Negroes"was kept by the British navy as it recorded the names of the Black Loyalists fleeing Manhattan for Nova Scotia at the end of the American Revolutionary War.
Originally posted August 7th, 2009.
As part of my summer reading I recently read the book by Lawrence Hill called The Book of Negroes. Back in February I saw the book at our local Chapters but in my usual frugality I did not buy the book but wrote the title down with many other books that interested me and then went to my local library and put them on hold. It has taken some years and alot of wasted money to realize I don't need to own every book I read. With a book costing around the $30.00 mark I get very upset with myself if I don't like it after reading it. So anyway I digress.
I read the back of TBON (The Bool of Negroes) and thought to myself "I don't think I will like this, southern states slave trade has been written, movied, tved to death". But like a trouper I told myself I would read the first two chapters and make a decision after that. Well let me say in that one sitting I read four chapters and then within a week had read the entire book. Yes the book was about American slaves but also so much more. It started in Africa with a young girl and it then tells her life story. The geography in the book is immense as we read about Africa, USA, Canada and Britain. The story is well written and as you move through this women's life you get a sense of just what she and others went through.
While I was reading the book the teenager said she also read parts of the book in her grade eleven American History class at school. Though it does have real historic people and places mentioned, it is still a book of fiction. The reader is not overwhelmed with historical dates and facts but is educated about a time in history in context to the characters.
While I was writing this review I went on the author Lawrence Hills website and noticed he has written other books which I will put on hold at our local library. I was thrilled with the fact that Mr. Hill is a Canadian and just lives in Burlington which is a feeder city to Toronto as is the city I live in. I also noticed that The Book of Negroes is published in Canada, Great Britain, South Africa and India. But to publish in the USA, Australia and New Zealand the book title was changed to Someone Knows My Name. I would love to know the story as to why the book title was changed and if Mr. Hill was OK with it or felt he had to compromise to get his book out to a wider audience.
I will admit that I was a little hesitant to take the book out in public in case someone took offence. But then I figured I didn't write the title and hopefully the title would encourage dialogue. While at the doctors office trying to get an appointment for the teenager when she was sick the receptionist asked about the book and said she had heard it was good but was a little concerned with what people would say if they noticed the title. When friends would ask what I was reading, they as well, seemed alittle taken back by the title. I guess even after all this time the word Negroes is still a contentious word.
I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. Happy Reading!