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Dreams of My Ancestors
by L.E. Chavous
56 pages, Illustrated
Book Review by Kam Williams
“Approximately 455,000 African men, women, girls and boys were the original ancestors of the estimated 40 million African-American people in the USA today. In this book, we take a look at who they were and what their lives were like before they came to the Americas.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (page 1)
Most African-Americans can, at best, trace their lineage back to the end of slavery. For, prior to Emancipation, blacks were merely considered property to be bred, bought and sold at the whim of their white owners.
Consequently, African-Americans know precious little about their ancestry, between the inability to construct their family trees and the omission of Black History from the average public school curriculum. In recent years, however, a couple of PBS-TV series hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates focusing on celebrities tracing their roots has ignited popular interest in undertaking similar searches.
Now, L.E. Chavous has written “Dreams of My Ancestors,” an engaging, educational tool ostensibly designed to pique the interest of impressionable, African-American young minds in their heritage. The author has structured his delightfully-illustrated opus in novel fashion, namely, as if it were a talk between a father and a son.
The dad starts by explaining how Africans came to first arrive at these shores and why so much of their connection to the motherland was lost over the intervening centuries. He goes on to employ a map to point out where on the continent those forefathers came from and to show how, with the help of DNA testing, it is now possible to identify one’s “long-lost cousins.”
The bulk of the text, however, is devoted to an informative lecture about African culture during which the son learns about food, jewelry, folktales, ethnic groups and elsewhat. The book also features a menu of native dishes, such as cassava, jollof rice, fufu and peppery stew, and even includes a glossary explaining the meaning of obscure terms like junkamoo (a festive celebration) and djembe (drum).
An admirable intro to African traditions carefully crafted to enlighten school age black kids.
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