An unforgettable character

Abducted as a child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea, Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War, registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes” and eventually travelling back to Africa.

A sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London, The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex. 

Published around the world, the novel won numerous prizes including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. The six-part television miniseries on which it was based attracted millions of viewers in Canada and the USA. The miniseries won many prizes, including eleven Canadian Screen Awards and the NAACP award for best writing in a television motion picture.

Let me begin with a caveat to any and all who find these pages. 

Do not trust large bodies of water, and do not cross them. If you, Dear Reader, have an African hue and find yourself led toward water with vanishing shores, seize your freedom by any means necessary. And cultivate distrust of the colour pink. Pink is taken as the colour of innocence, the colour of childhood, but as it spills across the water in the light of the dying sun, do not fall into its pretty path. There, right underneath, lies a bottomless graveyard of children, mothers and men. I shudder to imagine all the Africans rocking in the deep. Every time I have sailed the seas, I have had the sense of gliding over the unburied. Some people call the sunset a creation of extraordinary beauty, and proof of God’s existence. But what benevolent force would bewitch the human spirit by choosing pink to light the path of a slave vessel?