WE ARE AKAN by Dorothy Brown Soper (Ghana), author; and James Cloutier (Kenya), illustrator

 

WE ARE AKAN is a work of historical fiction that follows three months in the lives of Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako, ages 11–13, who live in and near the fictional town of Tanoso in the Asante Kingdom. It is a richly illustrated story set in 1807

Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako strive to become leaders in the Akan culture. They farm, learn spear throwing, take part in ceremonies and dances, and listen to stories while gaining an understanding of the rainforest and its animals. In the capital city to see the king and the Golden Stool and take part in an important festival, the boys encounter the wider kingdom: fine crafts, livestock, foreign people and books, and witness the sale of prisoners as slaves. Kwaku cares for a leopard cub that the king wants returned to the forest. Traveling to the coast, Kwame and Baako are kidnapped and threatened with sale as slaves. The Asante Kingdom faces rebellion and the decline of its role in the Atlantic slave trade. Change will come. Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako balance the life they know with new possibilities for their future.

As a PCV Dorothy Soper taught French to Akan students in a rural boarding high school in Ghana. At the time she was the only female teacher in the school and was placed in charge of the girls’ dormitory. Her experience was an immersion in the Akan culture. Returning to the U.S., she earned an MA in African history at UCLA and subsequently developed units on African culture and history for elementary school classes. She wrote the book in response to her experience as a teacher. She found little material for young readers and few visuals to illustrate African cultures of any historical period.

 

While in Kenya as a PCV James Cloutier created audio-visual materials to train land recipients to become cash crop farmers. Today he is a well-known artist in Oregon who specializes in illustrations, caricatures, and cartoons. For We Are Akan he created two maps and over ninety illustrations of Akan people, daily life, and celebrations. There is nothing similar on the market.

We Are Akan: Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest — Ghana, 1807
by Dorothy Brown Soper (Ghana 1962-65), author; and  James Cloutier (Kenya 1962-66), illustrator
Luminare Press
358 pages
Reading level : 9 – 12 years
October 2020
$8.99 (Kindle); $19.99 (Paperback)

 

 

4 Comments

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  • Dorothy and James, I’m delighted to see your years of creativity have brought us this tale – a story wrapped in 90 illustrations and 2 maps….unbelievable! Having seen several early illustrations, I can’t wait to read the entire book and feast my eyes on the visuals. A work that will appeal to children and adults alike.

    Today I’m calling my favorite local independent bookstore – Politics and Prose – and ordering copies. I want to draw it to their attention and urge them to stock it along with their titles about racism in America.

    Your work could not be more timely. What a contribution you’ve made to America and Africa.

  • As a fan of both historical literature and of the Peace Corps, I am intrigued by this book and the story it tells. I am excited to read, We are Akan and to add it to my library. Thank you Pat for bringing it to my attention.

  • It is so gratifying to see what these ex pc volunteers get up to later all over the world and the imagination and rich helping lives they share. Almost 60 years now.

  • I am a friend of Sandy Gourley’s and live across the hall from her. We met when you visited Plantation Village a couple of years ago! She let me borrow your book and I just wanted to let you know how fantastic I think it is! Your “firsts” descriptions are so wonderful for young readers and the woven story will keep their attention! I personally learned so much about the history of the area and the illustrations are so perfect! Your glossary is so informative and I love the way you used a phrase and then shortly explained or translated it. I hope others enjoy it as much as I did and that it will be used in the classroom for many years! It came out at a perfect time! I love the maps! Thanks so much! Susan Seidel

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