Book Review: The Deliverer

The Deliverer is a moving piece written by Kwabena Ankomah-Kwakye. It follows Osei Tutu who is the only son of Yaa Mansa Badua. The story foreshadows Osei Tutu’s greatness in a bold quote stating, “when you are born to kill an elephant, you don’t go bruising your knees chasing rats!” (Ankomah-Kwakye, 2011, pg. 11). In the beginning the book opens with his mother being tied to a tree and left for death. She eventually escapes and finds refuge with another family. The family shelters her and she gives birth to Osei. Yaa Mansa Badua dies shortly after leaving her son motherless. As the plot thickens, we hear of a land that is riddled with a disconnect between tribes. Osei is born of the Asante tribe, to which there is a prophecy in which there would be a deliverer of Asante from Denkyira.

Time goes on and Osei faces great hardships. He is born crippled and is resentful and bitter for it. Osei feels he is a burden to everyone, especially his foster father Bonsu. One day, astonishingly, at age thirteen he begins to walk. He never takes this new found miracle for granted, so much so that by the time he is 16 he is the villages most skillful hunter. He gains the respect of many peers due to this. This leads him into trouble however as one day he accidently shoots another mans game. That “other man” turned out to be Kojo Akenten. He was the proclaimed “deliverer” and sentenced Osei to be enslaved and locked away.

Osei nevertheless kept his spirits high and made the best of the circumstances through hard work. He eventually was very well respected both by the other slaves, and slave holders. This also did not come without a price. Out of jealousy he was stabbed and due to this taken to a herbalist. He is awoken by an assistant named Ama and is instantly in awe of her beauty. Osei eventually fully recovers only to find out that Ama is the princess of Denkyira.

Unavoidably the two are drawn to each other and Ama is very fond of Osei. She convinces the palace to let Osei move in as a royal slave to the family. After reluctance it is agreed upon and the two end up falling madly in love. This is troubling however given that Asante and Denkyira are at much conflict with each other. As if this isn’t enough for these two star-crossed lovers, Ama’s hand in marriage is eventually promised away by the king. She is very distressed over this and wishes to marry Osei. During Ama disclosing all of this to Osei, she makes it known that she wishes for Osei to be the first man she lays in bed with. During this, the guards find him hidden in her room and he is driven from the palace for good while narrowly escaping death.

Ama conceives from the night with Osei, and the man who was promised her hand in marriage refuses once it is known she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Osei is put through test of empathy and integrity passing each one and eventually rewarded with the counsel of the wise Okomofo Anokye. Together they eventually assemble an Asante army. Osei has prophetic dreams of the thrown or “golden stool”. It is perfect timing as the Denkyira tribe has been busy tormenting Asante, overtaking their land and building villages.

Under Osei, the newly formed army begin their endeavors and successfully start to win small battles. Eventually Ama catches wind of this and they are happily reunited. She tells him of his child but the joy is short-lived as they are nations at war with each other. Ama tries to facilitate a peace treaty between the two which eventually backfires as she hears of Denkyira’s plan to sabotage the Asantes army. She is locked up but eventually finds her way back to Osei again and the two are wed in a colorful ceremony. This isn’t before it is discovered that Osei is actually the first son of Otumfuo and thus, the deliverer. He overthrows Kojo yelling “moron, tie him up and bring him along!” (Ankomah-Kwakye, 2011, pg. 76). The same words that Kojo imprisoned Osei with. The Denkyira’s, after 6 years of war, are finally defeated under Osei’s rule. They are eventually seen as Asantes, and not oppressed. The tribes now live in peace, however the book ends in a cliff hangover with a new enemy arising from the South.

All in all, this was a beautifully written book and loosely explored some of the culture and history of Ghana. Historical fiction has the dual benefit of portraying the history while being imaginative and indulging in great story-telling. The overall feel of this novel was very reminiscent of the Alchemist for me. It was an action-packed thriller filled with a swiftly changing plot. I would highly recommend this book as it furthered my cultural understanding of the area and kept me very much interested throughout!

Works Cited

Ankomah-Kwakye, K. (2011). The Deliverer. Sub Saharan.

Blog Post 1: South African Literature & Avoidance

In an effort to understand young adult literature within the context of other cultures, I explored articles that examined some of the common themes of South African YA literature. Judith Inggs brought attention to a very interesting subject in her scholarly article Transgressing Boundaries? Romance, Power and Sexuality in Contemporary South African English Young Adult Fiction. Inggs (2009) throughout her article, she highlights that “adolescent sexuality, and even teenage romance, remains relatively unexplored in South African young adult fiction” (p.101). She examined young adult novels published from 1989 to 2006 in South Africa, while noting that only 11 had to do with sex/romance.

What was even more disturbing besides the lack of literature? In conclusion, Inggs (2009) found that a lot of the novels included themes of “macho patter’ (p. 104), and regret. The regret was almost inevitably displayed after any sexual encounters throughout the novels. She also found that most novels were repressive and silenced the discussion on sexuality while highlighting the consequences. Furthermore, out of the 11 novels only 2 focused exclusively on adolescent sexuality.

Not all was doom and gloom however, Inggs pointed to a novel entitled The Sound of New Wings by Robin Malan for hope. This novel was inclusive also to the LGBTQ community as it followed two young boys while they tried to navigate their sexuality while attending an international boarding school. I was shocked to find out about this novel amidst the lack of literature regarding adolescent sexuality. However, inggs noted that even the novels that were present on the topic did little to encourage an open discussion on the subject. The Sound of New Wings was one of the few outliers.

An interesting correlation was made in the article between HIV which ran rampant in the country, and the lack of literature that was present. I had never considered the pressure that young adult authors in South Africa would have while writing a novel that addressed the topic of sex. Most of the novels promoted abstinence while doing little to teach how to navigate feelings of desire besides stifling them. Inggs (2009) takes a position in which I fully concur with stating “these silences need to be broken if issues are to be dealt with constructively and effectively and if the rate of infection is to be curtailed” (p.112). I truly believe that if South African authors took to literature to display sexuality in a positive and safe manner the youth would become more educated and the HIV rate would drop.

Literature can have a powerful impact on important issues. There might be a theme of avoidance in South African culture in regards to sexuality, especially when it comes to the youth. However, there were a few hidden literature gems as found in Inggs study, and I can only point to those findings as progress being made. As time goes on, I can only feel as though the issue will be confronted and openly talked about in African literature in the future, it is an untapped market with a huge potential to educate the masses.


Works Cited

Inggs, J. (2009). Transgressing Boundaries? Romance, Power and Sexuality in Contemporary South African English Young Adult Fiction. International Research in Childrens Literature,2(1), 101-114. doi:10.3366/e1755619809000519