Text Only Page



Book of Negroes Selected by Trent Community for Trent Reads 2009


Students, Faculty, Staff and Alumni Vote for Lawrence Hill’s Acclaimed Novel to be Read by all New Trent Students in Fall 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009, Peterborough

After an open call for nominations, public defence of four short-listed books and a week-long on-line voting period, current Trent students, faculty, staff and alumni have selected Lawrence Hill’s acclaimed novel, The Book of Negroes, to be read by all new Trent students as part of Trent Reads 2009.

“I am absolutely delighted that so many members of the Trent community registered a vote for the Trent Reads book for 2009,” said Jocelyn Aubrey, associate dean of undergraduate studies and chair of the Trent Reads committee, citing that over 550 votes were registered through the on-line voting system at the end of January. “I know that our new students will find The Book of Negroes hard to put down once they start reading it and I look forward to many conversations with students, faculty and staff about what this book means to them.”

The Book of Negroes, also nominated for CBC Radio’s Canada Reads 2009, follows heroine Aminata Diallo as she is abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to live as a slave in South Carolina. Years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic "Book of Negroes", an actual document that provides a record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata's eventual return to Sierra Leone - passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America - is described as an “engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey.”

“Reading this novel will reinforce that history didn’t begin in 1991 or 1992 – the years when most of the Trent Reads participants were born, and discussion will come easily for readers surrounding the major themes of: identities, alienation, betrayal, love, hope and finally, home, the novel’s last word,” said James Onusko, a doctoral candidate in the Canadian Studies Ph.D. program at Trent and the student champion for The Book of Negroes, who defended the book to the Trent community. “There is no telling what positive forces we will unleash at Trent with having The Book of Negroes serve as our 2009 Trent Reads title. Reading this book has the power to serve as a transformative act.”

Nominated by first-year International Development student Ashleigh Swerfeger, The Book of Negroes was one of four short-listed books selected for Trent Reads 2009. The other works, all selected by members of the Trent community and chosen for their engaging and substantive content, were: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews; A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright; and If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? by J. Edward Chamberlin.

To help students, faculty, staff and alumni choose their selection for Trent Reads, a special website was set up, which featured videos from each book’s nominators and links to reviews. A Battle of the Books was also held at Trent on January 27 during which audience members listened to the four student champions defend their choice for the book new students will read and talk about in September 2009.

Trent Reads, a new initiative launched in 2008, is designed to bring the Trent community together by creating a common ground for discussion. It also aims to give new students an academic experience that they can all be a part of before they actually begin classes. Joseph Boyden’s award-winning novel Three Day Road was chosen for the inaugural Trent Reads in 2008.

All new students registered at Trent for the 2009/2010 academic year will read The Book of Negroes prior to arriving in September. During Introductory Seminar Week (ISW) in Peterborough, seminars consisting of small groups of 20 or fewer students and led by Trent faculty in a variety of departments and programs will provide a forum for new students to discuss the book. In Oshawa, discussion seminars will take place during the first few weeks of the fall term.

The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill’s third novel, was selected as one of the year’s best books by The Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen and Quill & Quire in 2007. Mr. Hill is also the author of the bestselling memoir, Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada (2001) and is a former reporter for The Globe and Mail and the Winnipeg Free Press. He has won a National Magazine Award, as well as an American Wilbur Award for his film documentary, Seeking Salvation: A History of the Black Church in Canada.


For more information about Trent Reads, including video clips from nominators and student champions, visit the website at www.trentu.ca/trentreads

For more information, please contact:
Jocelyn Aubrey, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Chair of the Trent Reads committee, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x6080