They needed a way to speak to each other without the whites understanding, yet they all came from different African tribes speaking one of thousands of African languages, or they were born on plantations and don't know any African languages at all, and so they devise their own way of speaking, close to English but entirely of their own creation.
The novel begins by providing a detailed view into the life of Aminata Diallo and her western African village, Bayo. As Hill himself wrote in these pages last year, the novel was published as The Book of Negroes in Canada, but his US publisher got cold feet, and he was informed that the word "'Negroes' would not fly, or be allowed to fly, in American bookstores".
This is the power of good fiction. With little exposition, seen as they are from the point of view of one lacking words or context, they feel less played than lived through.
She doesn't even need to say anything. Hill has managed to write a convincing, wonderful female protagonist - frankly, not many male writers are this successful. I empathized.
They are at the end of every queue, their opinions unsought and their aspirations ignored. If nothing else, this book highlights the fact that, no matter what colour you are or what your diet is, we are all human and share this intangible thing called human nature.
But for its first half, this is as gripping a novel as I've read for a while, and its vivid central character achieves that most elusive of goals, an afterlife beyond the pages of the book into which she writes her life. The opportunity to return to Africa - the dream she's always had - comes her way, but if she ever wants to see her home village of Bayo again she'll have to make a deal with the devil.
She describes herself as lucky, because compared to the tragic circumst International title: Someone Knows My Name It's and Aminata Diallo, now an old woman, sits down to write her life story at the request of the Abolitionists in London. I was walking one day behind a yoked man who swerved without warning to the left.