Manjani by Freedom Speaks Diaspora

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manjaniPublisher/Date:  Sun Cycle Publishing, Aug. 2008
Genre(s):  Coming of Age, Young Adult
Pages:  320
Website:  http://www.manjani.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Never will you read a novel with a more outspoken, unwavering young lady than MANJANI, a tale that narrates a girl’s coming of age and chronicles her ultimate self-fulfillment written by Freedom Speaks Diaspora.

The title character, Manjani, is one to be reckoned with. When she speaks, she speaks the truth. The problem is that it’s her version of the truth. Manjani wants to be a revolutionary, bless her heart. Although she means well, she uses her most powerful weapon – her voice – to annihilate anyone who impedes her growth and doesn’t ascribe to her way of thinking – including her teachers and even her own friends.  Determined to lead the charge to cure her “deaf, dumb and blind” peers, she sets out to prove how gullible “African-Americans” are, ignorant of the full history of their Afrikan people. It’s not that her message is flawed, it’s that the way it comes across leaves people turned off.

But never mind that. Manjani has a mission: to be revolutionary. With her father a member of an Afrocentric band and her sister, Aniba, a student at a healer’s school, Manjani has a few examples of role models to follow. However, her family is torn apart when a fire destroys their home, and Manjani is left with her father and younger brother while Aniba is missing. Living in a new home, her father decides to enroll her in Catholic school, where she is one of the few black faces there.

In short, life is a nightmare for Manjani. It doesn’t get any better when she realizes the school supports racist traditions – one that Manjani can’t stand for. Soon she’s kicked out of school, and joins an academy for future revolutionaries like herself. The Black Nationalist Academy is where she envisions achieving her life’s purpose with students and teachers who have the same goal in mind. Except the more she learns, the more Manjani realizes the world isn’t black and white, but several shades of gray. It’s even more complicated when she falls in love with a woman, who is both her teacher and mentor. But revolutionaries can’t fall in love, can they?

As the story progresses, Manjani finds out being true to yourself is the best cause she could fight for.

Manjani is a clever, energetic novel from an author who creates an honest character. Diaspora has a method to her writing that is introspective, but doesn’t come off as too preachy. I enjoyed the rise of a true woman warrior who knows her value and endeavors to make a difference with it.

Reviewed June 2009