We Are Akan

Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest - Ghana, 1807

Children - Coming of Age
358 Pages
Reviewed on 01/24/2021
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Author Biography

I grew up in Bakersfield, California and graduated from Bakersfield High School. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to Stanford University where I majored in French.

I worked with Akan students and teachers in Ghana for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching French in a rural boarding high school. Being the school’s only female teacher at the time, I was placed in charge of the girls’ dormitory. I credit my students and colleagues with teaching me about my school duties and the Akan culture.

Returning to the U.S. with plans to tell Americans about Africa, I earned an MA in African history at UCLA. As an elementary school teacher in the Eugene, Oregon public schools, I developed and taught many units on African history and culture.

I learned quickly that there is little for young people to read about Africa and few illustrations of African cultures in any historical period. I wrote We Are Akan in response. It is a richly illustrated work of historical fiction that is also an introduction to African history. Visit me at www.dorothybrownsoper.com to hear recordings of the Akan language and see resources for educators.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grace Masso for Readers' Favorite

We Are Akan: Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest — Ghana, 1807 by Dorothy Brown Soper is a blend of historical and coming-of-age, a story with a gripping setting that features life in the rainforests of Ghana in the 1800s. This book follows compelling characters — Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako — from one of the most powerful kingdoms in West Africa in 1807. Kwame is the royal son and Kwaku is the would-be successor to the chief. Baako is a slave boy who works hard to one day earn his freedom. Each of them has a dream of playing an important role in the Akan culture. When they travel to the city, Kumasi, to take part in the Odwira festival and see the King and the Golden Stool, their world is shaken when they witness the slave trade. Kwame and Baako get kidnapped eventually and threatened to be sold as slaves. With the turbulence ignited by the rebellion against the Asante Kingdom and the decline of the Atlantic slave trade, the friends consider new possibilities.

This is a well-written book that anyone who has travelled to the forest lands in Africa will love. Dorothy Brown Soper weaves a tale that is rippled with history and culture and that features an exciting world to explore. The life of the Akan is skillfully portrayed in the narrative, with cultural elements like hunting as an integral element of the evolution of manhood, life in the hearth, the art of mentorship in the slave-trade era, and royalty. There are interesting characters like Elder Kofi, who leads the young boys in hunting and whom they look to for guidance. What the reader gets in this compelling narrative is a colorful picture of a Clan or tribe in Ghana in 1807; it is a story that explores African basic values of bravery, family, friendship, love, and community. The book is beautifully illustrated by James Cloutier, offering images that grab the attention of readers and force their eyes to linger on the pages. We Are Akan: Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest — Ghana, 1807 features an impressive glossary and a bibliography that complements the story. This is a gripping story that explores what it meant to grow up in the rainforests of Ghana in the 19th Century; it is told in excellent prose and unveils the heart of a culture that readers will enjoy exploring.

K.C. Finn

We Are Akan: Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest - Ghana, 1807 is a work of fiction in the coming of age, cultural fiction, and children’s historical drama sub-genres, and was penned by author Dorothy Brown Soper. The work is intended for the middle-grade reading audience and for those with an interest in learning more about the Akan culture. Set at the turn of the nineteenth century, the work follows three young men, Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako, whose journey to the capital to see the king opens their eyes to a whole new world of possibilities for their respective futures. The work also contains gorgeous illustrations throughout the text by artist James Cloutier.

Author Dorothy Brown Soper has crafted an immersive and highly engaging work of fiction that replicates reality and provides a rich learning and reading experience for middle-grade readers and above. The author creates a vibrant and colorful mood with the attention to detail in the atmospheric language, bringing a vivid sense of awakening to both the characters and the readers themselves. The lexical and descriptive choices are really well balanced to represent the speech and specific terms of the Akan culture, but the prose is also cleverly worded to explain the technical language rather than confuse readers. And the fabulously eye-catching illustrations by artist James Cloutier also really aid in understanding and engagement for younger readers. Overall, I would highly recommend We Are Akan to fans of realistic historical work, cultural learning experiences and for middle-grade students everywhere.

Rabia Tanveer

We Are Akan: Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest - Ghana, 1807 by Dorothy Brown Soper features detailed illustrations by James Cloutier. Set in 1807, the story follows the lives of three boys living in the Asante Kingdom of West Africa. Baako is a slave who works to earn his freedom, Kwaku is slated to be the next chief, and Kwame is the son of the chief. The three of them hope to become leaders, but the path ahead is filled with hurdles they might not be ready to overcome. From kidnapping with the threat of being sold into slavery to fighting emotional challenges, these three young boys are on the path to becoming incredible young men. However, before that can happen, they have to face the challenges and accept the changes in their lives. Do they have what it takes to become a leader? Or are they just one of many in the crowd?

You rarely come across books of this caliber in your lifetime. The narrative and the illustrations fit perfectly together and take the reading experience to the next level. Dorothy Brown Soper very smartly divides the story into three parts, which indicates the change in the story and development of the characters. Kwame, Baako, and Kwaku are three very smart and powerful characters. They have an innocence that I am sure will resonate with younger readers, yet they have an air of intelligence as they grow and develop. My favorite out of the three of these characters is Baako. He is resilient, smart, and ready to take chances. Maybe it has to do with his circumstances, but I truly enjoyed his reactions and how he works hard to become better and do better. We Are Akan is a highly recommended book!