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"I hadn't seen it, I hadn't pored over the details, I hadn't breathed in its antiquity and its colour and its horror."
On top of the amazing part of Canadian history that this book is based on, Hill also crafted a very believable, strong protagonist to lead the storyline from start to finish: Aminata. In The Book of Negroes he tells the story of Aminata's lifelong journey from freedom, to slavery, and back to freedom again.
While Aminata is entirely a product of Hill's own imagination - not based on anyone that he knew personally or encountered through research - she is named for his eldest daughter.
"The first thing I was thinking of was what this woman might sound like and walk like and look like..." Hill recalled. "I started to think of her, first, before anything else, before I really had a story for her I started to imagine her looks and her character. And then I had to hang a story on her shoulders."
It wasn't easy for him to write from the perspective of an 18 th century female slave.
"I worried all the time about doing a bad job or a job that was unconvincing or that women might sneer at and say, 'this is ridiculous.'"
Hill has authored six other books, but this was a very tricky project, as he had to balance information that respected actual historical events with engaging characters and a storyline to draw the reader through the book.
"The pacing and the actual story itself is probably the vehicle by which the readers step into the history," Hill mused.
He seems to have succeeded with this delicate balancing act.
Since its publication in 2007 The Book of Negroes has received a tremendous response from literary critics around North America. It was the winner of CBC's Canada Reads competition, received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Evergreen. HarperCollins has recently released an illustrated version of the book. And now the author is hoping his latest work will reach a whole new audience with a film based on his book in the works.
The Book of Negroes has also gone on to be published in the U.S. and as far away as Australia and New Zealand, but interestingly, publishers in those countries opted to release it under the name Someone Knows My Name, instead.