Janju: A Village Girl In A City World, by Priscilla Koranteng (Poised Publishing LLC, Lanham, Maryland, 2014, 147 pages.)
Book Review by Dennis Moore
February 17, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - Priscilla Koranteng has followed up on her earlier Janju: The Voice Of One Girl with the natural progression to Janju: A Village Girl In A City World. It expands on the leadership qualities of a young girl in a small village area of Africa identified in the earlier book to that of her being in a much larger city environment. As with her earlier book Koranteng underscores the unique and endearing qualities of a young girl that seems to embolden her family and all those that come into contact with her. Clearly, Janju is a born leader. Why this particular book? The author indicates that as a young girl she always loved to read and write, and that she would basically write about anything, but little did she know or realize at the time that she had the ability to write poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Looking at her own life and now living abroad – she realized that the African child is sometimes distorted and limited to hunger and poverty – which is still the case. Koranteng emphasizes that the underlying resilience with which these kid survive is sometimes left out of the story. Thus, the fictional and warmly humanistic character Janju.
The author indicates that there is an issue with girl-child education in Africa – when it comes to sending children to school – some parents would choose to send the male-child to school, leaving the girl-child uneducated. Perhaps this is why Koranteng champions the cause of Janju and makes her the heroine of this story. The author further indicates that the Janju book project is her way of getting people worldwide to learn more about Africa and also for her to contribute towards girl-child education.
The author seems to weave her own personal story and aspirations into this well written and heartrending work of art and fantasy. Koranteng is adept at pointing out the uneasy initial transition of a young girl from a small village to city life. This transition includes a life of outdoor toilets and no plumbing to that of flushing indoor toilets that we sometime take for granted. This move to the city of Mante actually came about as the result of her father Pra receiving a promotion on his job, which required him to move the family from the village of Kan to the city. This brought about some major changes for Janju and her family.
The mansions, the lights and the spa – they all seem foreign to Janju. Janju’s new school in the city is totally different from her village school. How will Janju get used to her new world as she struggles to redefine herself and find her place among the city elite? Feeling outcast at school and missing her village, Janju learns what it means to come of age and blossom as a leader, friend, daughter and a young woman in a story that captures an infectious inspiration. Of course, this is helped along by a new friend that she makes at her new school, Lona.
Janju was initially teased by her new classmates for coming from a small village environment to that of the big city, before she won them all over with her effervescence and warm leadership qualities and intellect, just as she did in the author’s initial book; Janju: The Voice Of One Girl. Janju made friends quickly and abundantly. It was only a matter of time before Janju would begin to assert herself in her new school and the city of Mante, with her bubbly personality and natural leadership qualities.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the book was when Janju and her newly acquired friend and classmate Lona came up with the idea of raising money for the city orphanage. They came up with the idea of a talent show and Janju and Lona presented their plan and concept to the entire school. They fixed the date of the talent show for Valentine’s Day which would fall on a Sunday. The theme would be Sharing Our Love with You. This idea and concept of a talent show designed to help raise money for the city orphanage was indicative of the humanitarian spirit and nature of this young girl Janju who came from the humblest of beginnings. Clearly, she was destined for greatness.
Although fictional, this book by Koranteng pulls at the heart strings of readers wanting to think the best of our children, and it is a book that children and adults alike will enjoy. The friendship between Janju and Lona, as well as their respective families, grows to the point that they would all travel together to Janju’s former village of Kan, where a revelation was made. Upon coming to the library in Kan in which Janju was instrumental in building, they see a portrait of Janju in the foyer with the inscription; Welcome to Janju’s Library of Kan. This library is dedicated to Janju, the hero of Kan, whose efforts brought literacy to all generations of Kan and for generations to come. Janju is a true hero of Kan. Of course, one would have to read Koranteng’s Janju: The Voice Of One Girl to understand and appreciate how this all came about. The underlying theme of Janju is perseverance, courage, respect, speaking up and doing your best for your community.
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. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.