by Lawrence Hill
A "Canada Reads" (CBC) book selection; also the "One Book, One Community" book choice for Waterloo Region, 2009.
Aminata Diallo is of the Bayo tribe in Africa, and is kidnapped by slave traders at the tender age of 11. Forced to march with other captives to Bance Island, she crosses the sea and lands in South Carolina. Along the way, she witnesses much brutality, death, and disease. She leaves nothing out in her recounting of events, and so the reader experiences all of the horror with her.
But Aminata, who becomes known as Meena in the Colonies, is an intelligent, strong, and resilient girl, and survives, both through the care of those who take her under their wing, and through the use of her own wits. Though she suffers cruelty and hardship, she continues to press on, always with the ultimate goal of returning to Africa and the Bayo village. She moves from South Carolina to New York to Nova Scotia (as a black loyalist), and finally to Sierra Leone. At last close to realizing her dream, she joins forces with the abolitionists in England in a bid to end the slave trade once and for all.
Beautifully written, with strongly developed characters, the book draws the reader in from the very first pages, and never lets go. Highly recommended, it is based on historical fact, and acts as a rebuke and a reminder. We must do all that we can to end human slavery, for sadly, though not officially or generally tolerated, it continues to this day.