I was a little late on the whole Canada Reads debate due to how busy life has been these past couple of months. But fortunately CBC Radio is magnificent about having Podcasts available. I got to listen to the debates during and after reading The Book of Negroes, and it made the Podcasts even more compelling when I could agree or disagree with the arguments. In the end, The Book of Negroes was named Canada Reads winner 2009.
Canada Reads is CBC’s annual literature competition, with a few twists. 1. the books can be published any year (not just the most recent year like many book awards) as long as they’re written by a Canadian; 2. the judges are well-known Canadians who will debate and voice their opinions on the air; and 3. the debates take place over one week and the judges have to vote a book out of the running each day. Now that the debates for CBC Canada Reads 2009 are over, there is an online Canada Reads Book Club taking place with contests, forums and all that good stuff.
I picked up The Book of Negroes at our BookCrossing Meetup. I grabbed it rather anxiously as I was really interested in reading it. Through BookCrossing, you tag your books with a special ID number and then release them “into the wild”. Then when someone picks it up, they can go online and help track the book’s journey.
The Book of Negroes was a fantastic read; it had history, adventure, character and plot, and best of all — hope. The novel is the story of Aminata during the 1700’s and 1800’s when she is stolen from her village in Africa and sold into American slavery. Aminata becomes the storyteller for many different people, but her story is one resonating with hope, compassion, and life.
This book also showed me a glimpse of Canadian history (including the novel’s namesake) when Aminata goes to Nova Scotia to get away from the American slave trade. As one of the judges on Canada Reads said: “it taught me about a part of Canadian history which I thought I was a bit of an expert on.” Lawrence Hill weaves a compelling tale that “doesn’t feel like it’s teaching you the history at any point” according to Avi Lewis, champion on Canada Reads for The Book of Negroes.
I could not put this book down. I would come home from work and crawl into bed to read a few pages before making dinner. Compelling, compassionate, and courageous. I highly recommend you read The Book of Negroes — CBC Canada Reads deemed it a book that “all Canadians should read”.