My mom, being a professional reader, always kept an atlas beside the chair she read in. One day she explained to me the importance of this atlas. To her, it was important to understand where the author was taking you. Not to simply have a cursory understanding…to see the locale in relation to wherever you reside. I had never done this before. Perhaps the books I read were based in North America, or familiar locations…I don’t know. It was certainly important with The Book of Negroes.
The last book my mom ever read, I’m not quite certain if she read. The Book of Negroes, authored by Lawrence Hill, was the last book she held in her hands. My mom had begun reading it before she went into the hospital and a few weeks later, while at the hospital, she was done the book.
When my mom passed away we collected her things at the hospital, and this book was amongst her belongings. She had borrowed this book from a dear friend. A few weeks after her death, I picked up the book. To be honest I don’t always do well with “epic” novels. When you read in short spurts it is easy to get confused and after awhile close the book for good. I wanted to give this book a chance. I sat down with her atlas and the book. I remember that my mother had a hard time getting started reading it. She kept saying that it wasn’t pulling her in. However, I was gripped immediately. I knew then that my mom’s inability to be wrapped into this book had more to do with her mental state and less to do with the text. On a “normal” day this book would have grabbed her and she would have read it in a week. Instead it took weeks of laborious reading. I actually mentioned to her doctor that I was concerned that she wasn’t reading more. For some people this seemed logical…you don’t feel well, you don’t read constantly…it was not logical for my mom. It made me incredibly sad to see her with a book in her lap that she wasn’t reading. And then as her meds were shuffled…she started reading again…and made it to the end of this book.
I too made it to the end. I found it to be a most interesting book. Talk about overcoming adversity! Understatement! It was inspiring. It certainly made me feel that anyone can overcome any circumstance. Although it was a fiction novel…it felt real. This book follows one woman’s journey not only through her life, but across thousands of miles. Across oceans and back again. It highlights the unending desire of Aminata to return to her place of birth. Aminata’s ability to rise up when she is being repeatedly, and violently pushed down. This young woman, Aminata, is torn from her family, shipped in the most despicable conditions across the Atlantic to America and then bought to work on an indigo farm. There are moments of joy, like her relationship with the kind woman at the indigo plantation. Their mother-daughter bond was beautiful. Her relationship with her husband, Chekura, has moments of bliss and heartache. Following her climb to becoming a respected black woman, while difficult at times, was well worth the perseverance.
Unfortunately, my blog is out of order…when I started writing this blog I had forgotten that I read The Book of Negroes a few weeks after my mom died. I wanted to connect with her. This has been the most difficult entry for me to write, so far. I started writing it over two weeks ago…and I’m only just finishing it. I suppose this is why I started this blog. To talk about my mom, to talk about me. This book will always have a special meaning for me. It makes me sad that she didn’t have a chance to really enjoy her final novel. My mom loved Africa…she loved stories about empowered women…she loved stories about heritage.
The book is done…you can have it back now D. Thank you.