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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Someone Knows My Name

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, 2007, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., $24.95

I recently finished reading, rather savoring, this captivating story of one woman's life. Her name is Aminata, and she was born and raised in Africa around 1750. She and her parents lived in a village that was not accustomed to teaching a child, much less a female child, how to read and write, but Aminata's parents are exceptional. Her father is a practicing Muslim and secretly teaches his daughter prayers from the Qur'an. Aminata's mother is a gifted midwife, who takes Aminata to every child birthing event so Aminata can learn the way of "catching babies". These two skills will stay with Aminata forever and help her throughout her entire life.

Now the hard part for the reader...Aminata's story takes a horrible turn that is so heart wrenching and emotional that as the reader you almost want to skip to the next chapter, but you must stay with this child through her journey, and after every page and every chapter, you are sure her life will never get better or her circumstances will likely never improve, but Aminata is a survivor!

Her life's story is so fascinating, and if you are a history buff, you will have double the pleasure of reading the remarkable journey through a period of time in our own country's struggle to deal with the institution of slavery. As you may have guessed, Aminata is kidnapped and enslaved in the South, but she is strong and uses her skills to gain advancement in the slave world. She is always fighting for her freedom and becomes a shrewd and formidable woman. She overcomes so much misery and is always helping others less fortunate, that the reader is cheering for her the whole way and not feeling sorry for her. In the end, she is in her late sixties and stands strong one last time...she tells her life's story to the English Parliament in an effort to gain her freedom and that of her people.

DO NOT hesitate for one second that this book is a sad and hopeless book - quite the opposite is true. While it is extremely hard to be an eyewitness to her tragic life, it is this woman's soul and determination that stirs the reader's spirit. This book has definitely moved into my list of TOP 5 greatest books I've ever read. I will forever remember Aminata's story. Please, please don't pass this book up...this may sound hokey, but you will have a better appreciation of life - the good, the bad and the very bad - after you have finished savoring this novel.