It took me a lot longer than I expected to read Someone Knows My Name, and here’s why: It’s almost 500 pages of gut-wrenching heartbreak. I couldn’t just tear through it, because every word was heavy and demanded the respect of the reader to absorb them all.
The novel follows Aminata Diallo of the village Bayo, age eleven, as she is captured and sold into slavery. Witnessing her village being destroyed, she is forced to walk for months to the coast of Africa where she is loaded onto a ship and sent to the North American colonies. The passage is terrible, uncomfortable, and deadly for many. Aminata holds on to her proud heritage and the skills she’s learned from her mother and father, and uses them to survive. As a slave, she becomes known as Meena, an indigo laborer and midwife. She is a quick learner, and secretly learns to how speak Gullah and English, as well as how to read and write. All the while, she is desperate to learn how to get back to Bayo. Without trying to give too much away, Aminata spends years searching for her family, freedom, and old life, and at the end of it all, decides to share her story like the village djeli– storyteller.
Without delving into politics, Hill recounts one of the most shameful acts in the birth of America- the slave trade- from the voice of a powerful female main character. Though fictional, her story reflects many real accounts of this period in history, and puts the reader behind the character’s eyes. Every step of struggle, every minute success, and everything in between is relayed to the reader. Hill’s Aminata displays pure perseverance and strength at times where many would want to, or did, give up.
If you haven’t read this, please do. If you don’t own the book yet, please buy it- it deserves to be on your bookshelves. If you have read it, let’s talk. What did you think about the book? What kind of impact did it have on you? How do you think this novel applies to the current racial issues of today?