Manjani by Freedom Speaks Diaspora

Publisher/Date:  Sun Cycle Publishing, Aug. 2008
Genre(s):  Coming of Age, Young Adult
Pages:  320

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

8 thoughts to “Manjani by Freedom Speaks Diaspora”

  1. Now, I do not think that being a lesbian writer is like being in the Special Olympics…everyone doesn’t get a ribbon for participating. From that vein of thought comes my review.

    First, when I hear of a new author…if I have time, I do a lil research. First of all, this “lesbian writer” is a married woman (to a man) with kids….her character is a lesbian….true. But to technically call this “lesbian lit”…..ehhh. More like someone capitalizing off the genre.

    Second, in the years since Sister Souljah put out “The Coldest Winter Ever” there have been plenty of wanna be’s that came after. This is one of the most blatant forms of mimicry of that work ever….basically taking the same idea, same story line, role reversing the character even down to a crisis involving the family/father/sister….and going as far as to say this is for the “souljahs”…but just changing key words and scenarios a bit. It’s like the McDonalds/McDowell’s joke from Coming To America….her character is ignorant, mine is militant. Her fight happened at the end, mine at the beginning. Her character is a ho, mine is a lesbian….etc. Either way….unoriginal and done.

    I felt as if the author was saying to herself “When people read this…I want them to think of Sister Souljah”….rather than her own work….to try to catch the “black lit” train. I am not impressed at all…..

    1. I appreciate your comments about Manjani. However, I didn’t find the story to be anything like The Coldest Winter Ever. Both are militant in their beliefs, but to me that’s where the similarities end. As far as the writer being married to a man, I judged her on the story she presented.

  2. I am not only a writer but one of my main jobs in my career is to spot plagiarism, article/book spinning, and idea piggy-backing. And while I respect your opinion, as someone who spends 8 hrs a day to use my analytical thinking and ability to compare and contrast to weed out authors who are spinning unoriginal thoughts, I can’t agree with you.
    It’s easy to use the same framework and change enough of the key components to not be detected by the average reader. A decent writer with a talent of manipulation of words can easily do it. If you could easily detect it, it wouldn’t be such a pervading issue.

    As for her being married to a man…would I care normally?? No. But when you say that you identify as a member of the gay/lesbian community, that you’re a writer of lesbian lit…then it becomes a tad bit of an issue in my head.

    1. Now that you’ve explained your profession, I can see where you’re coming from. I respect your position. I would definitely need to read both again to be sure of the plagiarism. I will say this: A LOT of books have used The Coldest Winter Ever as a theme or inspiration after it was published.

      1. I definitely agree…and even though I understand the thought process behind it, I think it reeks of a lack of originality. Even if one does use something as an inspiration, it shouldn’t be identifiable….or it seems like one is piggy backing off another’s creativity and success.

      2. From an interview with the author:
        “….Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever. I love that book. I thought it was well-written, from characters to plot to “consciousness”. Everything! It’s what inspired me to write Manjani. I thought, what if Winter Santiaga was “conscious”? Let’s keep her a spoiled brat; let’s keep her in New York (since that’s where I’m from and can write about) and let’s keep the sexuality—in fact, let’s pump it up a notch— but instead of the character trying to get money, she’s trying to liberate herself and her people.”
        Point made.

        1. Welp! I get it. I still think the story stands on its own, though. Inspiration is the sincerest form of flattery.

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