Sometimes when I read a best-seller I wonder how the book ever sold more than 14 copies (think Twilight), but in this case, I wondered no such thing. This book truly is a masterpiece. It is the comprehensive story of an African woman named Aminata Diallo who is taken from her village as a child in the 1740’s, shipped across the Atlantic ocean, sold as a slave in South Carolina, and through an endless series of tragedies and opportunities, finds herself as an old woman in Britain working with the abolitionists to end the slave trade. The book is so human, so full of common grace, that it shines with a beauty that irresistibly resonates with one’s own humanness. Aminata is a beautiful soul above all, and the quiet simplicity of her wisdom is like a long sigh of relief for the heart.
The writing is simply excellent, the story truly compelling, the history downright chilling. It is fiction but a fiction rooted in history, a story that could well have happened. In a sense it is a true story, because it brings to life the forgotten and untold stories of countless Africans who were treated like animals by white men who were truly animals. I came away with a brilliant sense of the preciousness of humans, made in the very image of God, and the need to always, always, always treat one another in light of that reality. When we deny one another the dignity of being human, when other compulsions push us over that line, there is truly no atrocity, no cruelty, no unspeakable evil, that we are incapable of.
A beautiful story during a very sad chapter in human history. Now if only that chapter were truly closed. If only opportunistic men no longer stole human beings from their homes in order to sell them to others. Slavery has gone underground, but it is a reality worldwide, with slaves bought and held captive in every major urban center in the world, often for sexual purposes. The amorphous reality of corporate sin, of communal guilt through the pervasive consumption of pornography, is undeniably linked with the global sex trade. The relationship between personal choices and the horrible realities of injustice and oppression is muddy enough to assuage personal guilt but tenacious enough to sustain a system of cruelty that will not be overcome until responsibility is laid plainly at the feet of even of the most casual consumer.
The Book of Negroes is beautiful novel about the ugliness of sin and the strength of the human spirit, the vestiges of the image of God within each one of us.