Friday, December 18, 2020

About the Book (See diary below)

If you’re interested in Africa and want to know more about West Africa but don’t like non-fiction books, here’s an historical novel for you.

It’s a story about Kofi, a 17-year-old member of the Ashanti tribe in what is now central Ghana. In 1900, when the story takes place, it is part of the British colonial system.

Kofi goes to hear the British governor, who was visiting from the coast to give a speech. In it the governor tells the Africans they will have to pay certain fees, that their kidnapped chief will not be returned to them, and he demands to sit on the Golden Stool. These and other pronouncements infuriate the Ashantis, and they go to war.

Kofi, who does not believe in violence, is caught up in the war with many misgivings. He is very fond of Trudi, a school friend and the daughter of one of the missionaries, and doesn’t want her to suffer.

The Africans besiege the Kumasi fort in which the governor, his wife and son and British soldiers are residing and in which Swiss missionaries have taken shelter. In the fort, Trudi befriends Paul, the son of the governor, and the young man also is attracted to the self-centered girl.

The siege continues for more than two months, after which most of the Europeans escape. Before they part, Trudi promises to wait for Paul to finish his college studies.

Kofi has become intensely anti-European, and vows to spend his life as a freedom fighter.

Most of the events and characters, with the exception of Kofi, Trudi and Paul, are historical. I was fortunate in that the British governor’s wife published a book in which she described life in the fort during the siege, so I have not only historians’ accounts of the Ashantis’ conduct of the war, but an insider’s view of the besieged.

Ashanti Saga: The Fort is a Young Adult book, but adults of all ages enjoy reading it. It is available at Amazon and


I’m currently on a tour of Florida, Texas, California and the Pacific Northwest (and points in between) from mid-January to mid-April. I am speaking, giving PowerPoint presentations about West Africa and signing my book along the way.


I first went to Ghana in 1961 as a member of the first U.S. Peace Corps group to go to work anywhere in the world. I taught science there for two years, and in 1964 I became Deputy Director of the Peace Corps in Ibadan, Nigeria. In 1968 I went back to Ghana to teach in Accra, leaving in 1972.

Early in 2008 I was contacted by some former students at the the high school in Accra, who informed me they were endowing a scholarship at the school and naming it “The Alice R. O’Grady Award for Excellence in Science.” They presented me with a round-trip ticket to Ghana so I could go to Accra and present the first award to a student at the school, which I did in September, 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Back at last

Just to let you know that I AM working on the sequel to Ashanti Saga: The Fort. Its working title is Ashanti Saga: Change of Plans. This novel takes place in 1922, and the main characters are offspring of some of those we met in 1900 in the first novel. A young soldier travels to Ghana from his native England, and there he has the experiences that fill the remainder of the book. The story begins with his family in England, and you will recognize his parents if you've read The Fort. Then his trip by sea to the Gold Coast, and his adventurous disembarking at Takoradi. He is posted to Kumasi, where he falls in love. That's all I'm going to reveal to you; the book should be published by spring of 2013.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Last Leg

Can one in all honesty write a diary after finishing a trip? I think not. So, as I hope to be in Chautauqua tonight, I'd better write about my journey since Minnesota.

Madison, WI is where my fellow Ghana 1 Bob Klein and former Nigeria PCV Phyllis Noble live. They had a party at which I spoke, and I also spent a morning at Sennett Middle School, talking to three groups of children about West Africa. Enjoyed both, but I do love speaking to children, though they generally don't buy books.

Klein/Noble's neighborhood has a plethora of ethnic restaurants, and I enjoyed Indian and Thai meals there, as well as a surprisingly good pizza and Bob's doctored spicy tomato soup.

Spent my 75th birthday with them, a leisurely time with no schedule, no obligations. That's the way a birthday should be.

Took a slight detour to Milwaukee, where I stopped at the Omanhene Chocolate Company U.S. headquarters to meet Steve Wallace. He has a factory in Tema, Ghana that produces chocolate, which he sells in the U.S. and Japan. I bought a bunch of his small chocolate bars and have been giving one to everyone who buys my book.

Had lunch near Chicago with my sister-in-law, Betty O'Grady, catching up with family news. A night in South Bend, IN and I'm now near Cleveland, and shall head home almost immediately.

Skirting the Blizzard

After Ellensburg, WA I drove through Idaho: farmland with a great advantage.The names of the crops were posted on the fences along the highway! No more "I wonder what that is growing there" in Idaho! Even though, in March, there wasn't much growing anywhere.

The weather forecasts and my friends warned me that a big snowstorm had hit the Dakotas and Nebraska, so I stayed in Billings waiting to see which way was better: 90 through N.D. or 94 through S.D. The next day, south looked a little better, so I took off, through a corner of Wyoming and then east. The days were sunny and the roads perfectly clear, with an occasional wet spot.

In Wyoming I was pleased to see a herd of antelope. I recall people hunting them when I lived in Thermopolis; brought back memories. Don't think I ever ate one, for which I'm grateful after seeing these graceful animals.

A lot of the driving in South Dakota was through hills (mountains?) that were bare and brown or tan. Maybe there were dead grasses. When one is at the crest of a hill, looking down at more hills, one has that on-top-of-the-world feeling. You can never get that when there are trees around.

In Minneapolis I had a new speaking experience: I spoke in an art gallery. It was an exhibit of the beautiful metalwork of Rabi Sanfo from Burkina Faso, just north of Ghana. I had an interested crowd, and sold more books than usual.

The gallery is owned by former Nigeria PCV Lynn Olsen and her husband Frank Stone, who is also a metal artist. They own the gallery building and rent space for other artists and craftsmen's workshops. They've watched the somewhat run-down neighborhood change to one occupied by artists side by side with the ethnically mixed population. Had a great few days with them, had a look at the city and the Mississippi River, and went into the Guthrie theater complex. Interesting building.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


My friend Laura Damon has long been interested in chimpanzees, and she mentioned in an email that I was near the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute in Ellensburg, WA. I stopped there, attending a 1 1/2-hour "chimposium" in which I learned a lot about chimps and observed the three residents using American sign language to each other and to humans. What an experience that was!

I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity when possible. The Web site is

Driving east from Ellensburg I encountered snow--but not on the road. For much of the rest of my trip so far there has been snow on the ground. Seeing it among the conifers on the mountainsides was beautiful, and once a recent snowfall had dusted the branches. Such glorious sights I've seen!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hail, Columbia!

Visiting my niece Jessica Burstein in Seattle was fun, as I hadn't seen her in years, and I enjoy her company. We ate (and drank) at several good restaurants in her neighborhood, and had a lot of conversations.

I'd broken a tooth on the way there, and her dentist glued it back together (a temporary measure) that turned out to be QUITE temporary, as it came loose about an hour later as I gently ate. So now I'm gap-toothed again.

With the help of Dr. Joe Appiah-Kusi I visited two schools, and another that Jessica had arranged for. Didn't actually speak (except briefly to one class) at Seattle Girls' School, but had a fascinating tour of the place. The syllabus is really interesting, and as it's a private school it can make education more meaningful, environmental and effective than is possible in the public bureaucracy.

Back to Portland for hosts Laura and Jonathan's party and to again enjoy their one-year-old, Hadley. I spoke at the party and showed some of my artifacts.

My drive to Ellensburg, WA was one of the most beautiful of the whole trip, through The Dalles along the Columbia River. At times the road and the river were at the same level, with cliffs enclosing us on both sides. Even an occasional waterfall!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Relaxing in the Woods

In Auburn, CA, about an hour's drive NE of Davis, I visited Arlene Bouman. We had been roommates in the late '50s, and seen each other only once since then, about 39 years ago. What a treat to see old friends and catch up with THEIR lives!

Arlene lives in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, and from her deck all one sees is miles and miles of ponderosa pines and the mountains in the distance. I was able to unwind there after all my urban experiences.

I spoke at a school library in Grass Valley that's also a public library. I didn't get any details on how that works, but it seems a reasonable arrangement in this era of library consolidations and closings.

What followed was a LONG drive to Portland, Oregon, where I stayed the night with Laura and Jonathan Stanfill on my way to Seattle. Lots of orchards and nut farms along the way, many of them in bloom.