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.