A thorough and illuminating cultural primer.




Ayim (Jack Cudjo, 2011) explores the history and culture of the West African Akan people in this nonfiction work.

Some Akan people live in Ivory Coast, but most are based in southern Ghana. There, they constitute a majority of the population, and their primary tongue, Twi, is its most commonly spoken indigenous language. “The word Akan literally means ‘premier,’ ” the author notes. “Akanfo means ‘premier people,’ connoting a group of people who consider themselves among the earliest of nations.” Tradition holds that the Akan’s origins are connected with Pharaonic Egypt, and Ayim offers a comparative analysis of these two cultures as well as of other African peoples in different periods. The author explores the particulars of traditional Akan society, from its foundation myths and history of migration to its distinctive matriarchal structure. The book pays much attention to social organization and rituals, and it clarifies the Akan understanding of the individual, death, and other sociological concepts. Numerous appendices explore further details, including symbology, woven kente cloth, and common names and proverbs. Ghana, like the rest of world, is constantly experiencing cross-cultural pollination; the author describes this as diluting Akan culture, and he argues for the necessity of traditional ways: “The average Ghanaian has been made to understand that drumming and dancing are all that culture is about,” he says. “But a well-developed and harnessed culture…could contribute its quota to national development.” Ayim writes in a prose style that’s formal yet accessible and detail-oriented. The overall tone is scholarly, and the book’s brevity and diversity of content make it a serviceable introduction to Akan culture. Its analysis of cultural and linguistic links between the Akan and ancient Egyptians is intriguing even if that connection finally remains murky. The text can be a bit dry at times, but it adequately captures the rich history of its titular people, and it will likely inspire some readers to seek out more information about Akan culture. Readers interested in the history and peoples of West Africa in general, and of Ghana in particular, will find much of interest here.

A thorough and illuminating cultural primer.

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5078-9764-5

Page Count: 282

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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