This fabulous historical novel is the story of Aminata (Meena) Diallo, an African woman. It is told in flashbacks, beginning when Meena is an old woman living in London who is convinced to write her life’s history by a committee of men attempting to end the slave trade.
Meena’s tale begins when she is a young Muslim girl who is captured by the slave traders near her home village in Africa. She is marched to the coast and then sent across the Atlantic on a slave ship. Despite being young and small, Meena is a valuable slave because of her skill as a midwife. In the colonies, she is sold and endures years as a slave. After marrying, having a child, and losing both of them, she is purchase by a Jewish man from Charleston, who allows her to work as a midwife for a portion of her takings. Meena manages to escape from slavery when they travel to New York City. During the American Revolution she works for the British, which provides her the opportunity to escape slavery all together.
This brief summery does not do justice to the tale in any way. The novel is rich in historical details about the indigo trade, the slave ships, and the relationship of the British to the Africans and slaves in America. The book was powerful and captivating. Like The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, it allows you to experience the whole of another person’s life, one who overcame things we can’t even imagine.