Not With Silver

Written by Simi Bedford
Review by Viviane Crystal

“Some, who are woven into our pattern, are colours from another, possibly larger pattern, in which there will be a little of us. For part of us will travel with them, just as part of them will remain with us, for ever.” From 1740 to 1818 the characters present a distinct identity that shapes their future in Nigeria, South Carolina, Nova Scotia, and Sierra Leone.

Abiola, a young Nigerian boy in the village of Oyo, is desperately trying to prove himself in the middle of political intrigue and schemes. One can visualize the vivid colors of turbans and robes, smell the camwood and citrus, imagine the mystical dancing and hear the chanting of poetic proverbs interwoven into every aspect of West African life. Abiola, however, is eventually captured and forced to endure the infamous Middle Passage journey as a future South Carolina slave. Renamed as Cornelius, he is sold to a French plantation owner who trains him to speak and read French and uses him to entertain his Charleston neighbors. He vows to be part of the total abolition of his own people selling slaves, a vision cherished by his daughter, Epiphany, and eventually his grandson, Abiola.

The overriding conflict within this sweeping saga depicts the desire for financial independence that will mark one’s ascendancy from the bowels of slavery to equality with white people, as opposed to reliance on tradition and religion to surmount the scarred memories of slavery. One character, Delilah, however, secretly trafficks slaves to America, a decision of greed which threatens to undo the foundation of past and present.

Not with Silver is an amazing saga that attempts to cover the history of slavery, and its shameful African origins, in a social and cultural presentation that is quite literally and intelligently wonderful. A must read!