Janju: The Voice Of One Girl, by Priscilla Koranteng (Poised Publishing LLC, Lanham, Maryland, 2014, 150 pages.)
Book Review by Dennis Moore
January 27, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - Priscilla Koranteng, an author and businesswoman born in Ghana, West Africa, to a teacher and politician, and who grew up with a lot of optimism and the zeal to achieve the best in all she could, has written a warm and fictional account of a young girl growing up in Africa; Janju: The Voice Of One Girl.
There is one remarkable thing about the small village of Kan, one thing that is sure no matter what – and that is Janju – a mature, bright and responsible young girl growing up in Zikaka – a fictional African country. Janju learns to speak up and make a difference in this compelling and inspirational story. Janju is growing up learning all about traditions, values and ethics, as she struggles to make her voice heard from the crowd, calling for progress and enlightenment for the good of her whole community. A born leader, with the strength to rally her village together and motivate others no matter the obstacles in her way. Janju’s constant perseverance and strong independent character is something we can all relate to.
One gets the sense that this fictional character Janju is the embodiment of Koranteng, especially considering that as a young woman, she also experienced, first-hand, what it’s like to live in a village without electricity, clean water and basic amenities. Priscilla actually traveled with her father to many villages in the central region of Ghana, where she met incredible women-entrepreneurs whose resilience has had a tremendous impact on her life. Perhaps this has had a lot to do with the author being the owner and publisher of Poised Publishing LLC, as well as an HR consulting firm; Poised HR Solutions LLC.
The author emphasizes in her book that there is actually power in one girl’s voice, as Janju spoke up and made a difference in her village. Rallying her village and motivating others through their shared cause, Janju shows exemplary courage and resilience in her constant perseverance, and in so doing, reminding us of the common values for which we all must strive. This, from a young grade school girl.
As an avid supporter of girl-child education in Africa, as defined by UNICEF, the author can attest to the value that educating a girl-child brings to the society, and it comes across so eloquently in this fictional tale of Janju.
The story line follows: The birthday of Janju is an occasion when it seems that the entire village of Kan comes to the home of Janju’s parents, Joa and Pra, to help Janju celebrate her 10th year birthday. The author indicates that a girl’s tenth birthday was a significant milestone in Kan, a time when the girls begin to learn all the responsibilities of the home – cooking, cleaning, and taking care of younger siblings. Kahla, Janju’s best friend from school, arrived at Janju’s home, along with another friend, Ganina, as well as other family and neighbors, which was an indication of the high esteem and love felt by all for Janju. Games were played by the young kids, and the sharing of gifts to celebrate the birthday of Janju was made. It was such a joyful and festive occasion for all. Joa, Janju’s mother, smiled with pride at her daughter, and stated: “You are beautiful, my daughter. Enjoy this day.” This seemed to be typical in Janju’s family household, particularly on her birthday. Janju’s uncle Tibu attended the birthday party, and provided her a present and said; “Happy birthday, Janju! Wow, you are ten years old already. I remember the day you were born. It was the happiest day of our lives. Your father held you in his arms and proclaimed, ‘My daughter will be a great woman.’” With that, Janju opened her present from her uncle Tibu, which was wrapped in plantain leaves and decorated with hibiscus flowers, to discover a purple notebook that looked like a diary. Janju was overjoyed by her uncle’s kindness, as she was with all the others that came to celebrate her birthday.
Despite the joy and love for each other expressed and celebrated at Janju’s birthday party by all, there is one thing missing in the village of Kan that became evident to Janju and her best friend Kahla, and that is a library where the children and adults could go to enhance their knowledge and learning ability. Janju, being the enterprising young 10-year old that she is and was recognized by her parents and villagers, decided to do something about that. She talked with her teacher and the principal of her school, and anyone that would listen, about why it was so important and needed in a small village that did not have the basic amenities that a lot of us take for granted. Because she was so respected and admired by everyone in this community, the voice of one girl was heard.
Pra, Janju’s father supported his daughter in her efforts to bring a library to Kan. Most of the time that is all it takes, for parents and adults to support and respect the ideas of children. Janju and Kahla were still chatting with each other about the idea and concept of a library when Pra called them in, stating: “Come here, future journalists, we are proud of you both.” Both girls were elated and ran towards the adults. Pra said, “We think you have a great idea. Nimo is going to check with his brother Setu in the city how to create the newspapers, and then we’ll take it from there.” The newspapers were going to be just one aspect of their proposed library.
The entire village of Kan rallied around Janju and her idea of bringing a library to Kan. It was Janju and her classmates’ idea to sell artifacts at the local market to help raise money for the library. When the adults of the village saw the efforts of their children they joined in and made contributions of items that they had around their households, some in need of repair. It turned out that because of the industrious efforts of Janju and her classmates, a number of benefactors came forward to donate the land for the library and to actually build it. This, due to “The Voice Of One Girl.”
The author has expressed to me that she would like to develop the girl story (Janju) into a screenplay, but bigger than just the film or animation, but about creating the girl character (Janju) and brand it all over the world with merchandise in stores, similar to Disney and Nickelodeon. I can see that happening for this ambitious and enterprising author that seems to be the embodiment of Janju. This is a warm and joyful book that can be enjoyed by young and old.
Dennis Moore is the Associate Editor for the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, as well as a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. Mr. Moore can be contacted at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.