"This illuminating, lyrical trilogy-opener follows a West African boy’s journey from his Asante Kingdom hometown to the brutal crossing of a ferocious sea."
Beginning in 1860, Kwame Alexander’s The Door of No Return — the first powerfully poetic book in a trilogy — shares the stirring story of a family who live in Upper Kwanta in the Asante Kingdom (present-day Ghana).
Revealing hidden history and brutal truths, this masterfully conjured novel-in-verse is underpinned by the author’s intention to show that, “while the brutal captivity and bondage of Africans was a part of my story, it was not the first chapter, or even the second…I wrote this story because people need to know that the middle was not our beginning. I wanted to speak the truth about the history of African Americans, because while most of us are aware of the American part, it’s time for us to know more about the African part, right?”
While sharing this important history, The Door of No Return is also brilliant at evoking relatable emotions, with the story centred around eleven-year-old Kofi — a boy who loves swimming in the river, loves a “girl/who makes my stomach wobble/and my heart beat”, and loves playing oware with his wise grandfather, Nana Mosi, the village storyteller. At school, though, Kofi wonders why they’re forced to learn so much British history, “why we do not spend/as much time/learning the history/of our own kingdom”, and why pupils are forbidden from speaking Twi.
Alongside such cultural oppression, an annual festival honouring a peace treaty sees Kofi’s older brother face Lower Kwanta’s heir to the throne when he’s selected to fight for Upper Kwanta. The result of the contest unleashes a tsunami of trouble, and Kofi faces a “door of no return”. Forced to take a “slow passage/over troubled waters” in brutal conditions, he finds some solace in memories, dreams, and singing praise songs to his family. The heart- stopping ending will leave readers desperate to find out what Kofi does next.