Pack Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, by Manu Herbstein to Read on Your Next Trip: A Book Review
Last year, my husband Phil and I traveled to meet his extended family in Ghana. It was the first time I’d been to his home country and it just so happened to be “The Year of Return” landmark journey and celebration. The 2019 Year of Return coincided with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of slaves landing in the United States. Ghana was a key transit point on that journey, so the Year of the Return was meant to encourage African diasporans to come to Africa to invest in or settle into the continent, but more specifically Ghana.
It celebrated the victims of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and included many stops and tours along the way. As we traveled, I picked up an incredible novel at the Coast Castle tour stop that depicts the journey of one particular slave Ama.
I started reading it on the 4-hour drive back to Kumasi, and I couldn’t put it down! It took me exactly 4 hours and 56 minutes to finish, and it was the richest almost 5 hours of reading.
I could visualise Ama’s journey and the horror she experienced at the hands of brutality. As I read it page by page, the cold feeling I felt when I took a tour of the castle kept coming back. This is one of the rare book that attempts to recreate just one story from those awful slave trade days. As the author mentions, hardly any personal stories of the enslaved Africans have survived.
During the book, the spirits of Ama’s village travel with her through her physical and mental journey. They sustain her through her forced conversion into Christianity, which I believe—despite her circumstances—was a small blessing to her during the transition from an African way of life into a brutal, modern civilisation.
This is an outstanding work of literature that sheds light on so many dark areas of European-African history. I found it both emotionally and historically enriching. And I cried throughout it. It boldly explores one of the darkest moments of human history when human beings—Black Africans—were traded like farm animals. The author, Manu, painfully peels off the decay from our necrotic wounds to show us as Africans our painful complicity in our own enslavement and, therefore, debasement.
One sentence from the book will never leave me. It says, “To hell with you all. I will survive. I shall survive.” This line alone encompasses the incredible will-power and love of life that Ama has. It’s truly inspirational.
Ama is a must-read. It’s a must-pack for any travel adventure. Especially in today’s climate, this book gives a thoughtful and raw recount from the perspective of a slave, and I think everyone needs to understand that perspective.
Make sure you pack Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, by Manu Herbstein to Read on Your Next Trip.
Grab a copy of “Ama” at your favorite local bookstore, library, or on Amazon here.
Watch for more must-pack books and reviews soon.