Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Someone Knows My Name

Plot Summary Part 4

There is a lot of snow and the worst thing about all that snow is that it's all WHITE!

Meena gives birth to a baby and calls her May.

White people form gangs and start killing black people. Meena leaves May with a kindly white family while she goes somewhere else, and when she comes back, she learns the kindly white family has left, taking May with them!

Now the British come and make a new offer. An officer named John Clarkson offers to take black people back to Africa to a town called Freetown in Sierra Leone.

Meena, without inquiring over details, thinks this is great, and helps organize black people to move back to Africa. It will be PARADISE!

Or not.

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She learns that there used to be a colony there but it was destroyed by the local Chief named King Jimmy. King Jimmy appears frequently to terrorize the locals. Even worse, slave traders operate freely just a short distance away. John Clarkson assures them that if they stay in town that they will never be taken as slaves, but the freed black people freak out when the slavers visit their town for recreation. Even worse, the slavers start moving their slaves through Freetown.

So the freed blacks had come all the way back to Africa to live a stone's throw from the thriving slave trade. Nor did they get the land they were promised. They were also forced to work for the British if they wanted to eat. They did not really have their freedom.

Meena decides she wants to go back to her village, Bayo. She hires a slave trader to take her there. Are you following this?

So what does the slave trader try to do? Sell Meena, of course. But Meena learns of his plan beforehand and she escapes into the bush. She gives up on her quest to find Bayo and returns to the coast.

Her whole quest to get home made no sense. Her village was small, only about 20 families, and it seemed like much of her village had already been enslaved. If there were still people living there now, they would be total strangers. Her hiring slave traders to take her there was beyond ridiculous.

Fast forward to old Meena. She goes to England to testify before parliament about the slave trade. She writes a book about her life. She even meets the King and Queen of England, but says nothing of consequence to them.

Then May, her daughter, magically finds her one day. May tells Meena how she was kidnapped by Whitey but escaped. A few pages later Meena dies. The end.

Literary Criticism:

This could have been an interesting book. The story of a slave escaping, and making a new life for herself. But the story unfolded in the most boring way. Meena escapes simply by slowly walking away in New York City. There is no exciting chase scene, no feeling of suspense.

Every place Meena goes, she does the same thing--teaches reading and writing and delivers babies. She does it in the Caribbean, New York, Nova Scotia and Africa. That's what most of the story is about. And it's boring.

Even when Meena meets with the King and Queen of England, she says nothing of consequence to them. It's a big disappointment. When she testifies in front of Parliament, what is the result? Nothing. The book ends with her reuniting with May and then dying four pages later. There was no big climax to the story. The author didn't know how to create dramatic tension. Reading this book felt like dull, repetitive labor.

Another problem with the book was all the unlikely things that happened in it. Characters would zero in on Meena like a drone, even from thousands of miles away such as when Appleby and Lindo both converge on New York to claim her at the exact same time. Characters seem to know exactly what is going on with other characters who are dozens or hundreds of miles away. It doesn't feel real.

And neither does Meena's behavior. Hiring slavers to take her back to her village is ridiculous. She loved Chekura even though he helped them enslave her. None of that makes sense.

Combine boring and unrealistic and you get this book.

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