The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Recommended by: Stephen Dilley/@stephenjdilley

Form and Genre: Verse novel. 

Length: 400 pages.

Summary: This verse novel, the first in a trilogy, explores Asante history and the horrors of the slave trade. The first half of the story explores eleven-year-old Kofi Offin’s childhood in Upper Kwanta before he is captured and sold into slavery, which is described in harrowing detail.

Age recommendation and challenging content: Suitable for Year 9 upwards – the descriptions of the slave trade are (rightly) horrifying, including violence, sexual violence and mutilation.

Notable reasons for recommending this book: A gripping and moving text which allows us both to appreciate the richness of Asante culture and the brutality of the slave trade – my heart was in my mouth for the final pages of this novel which ends with a powerful cliffhanger. In spite of the horrors depicted, In his author’s note, Alexander emphasises that he wants to challenge the idea of Black history beginning with slavery, and he beautifully presents the importance of stories and dreams as a source of strength. As with other YA verse novels, it is a very accessible text for readers of all abilities.

Additional Comments: It’s a really lovingly produced book, using Adinkra symbols at the beginning of each section (which are explained at the end of the novel) as well as including a map of the Asante Kingdom and a glossary of place names at the end. 

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