A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This novel tells the story of a boy's life before and after he is taken captive by enslavers. It describes life in a village in Ghana and life on a ship sailing to the Western world.
Know who you are. You have worth and dignity no matter your circumstances.
The main characters are Black Africans in 1860.
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Violence & Scariness
There are graphic descriptions of rape, murder, suicide, and beatings, by members of different African villagers against rival tribes by White slave ship sailors against their captives, and by Africans against their captors in self-defense.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A budding preadolescent romance is described in gentle terms, like a desire to hold hands.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
White sailors get drunk on whiskey, sometimes leading to taunting or raping the Africans in their custody on the ship.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Door of No Return by Newberry Medal-winning poet and novelist Kwame Alexander (Becoming Mohammed Ali) is a novel in verse about Kofi, an 11-year-old boy living in a village in Ghana. He attends school where a strict teacher trains the class to speak "the Queen's English" rather than their own. Kofi takes great joy in his family, swimming, and awakening to his first crush. He looks up to his big brother, who is mentally preparing Kofi for the upcoming ordeal of ritual initiation into manhood. Tragedy befalls the family after an accident at a festival. Then, Kofi is captured from his village in Ghana and shipped along with others Africans to a country where he will be enslaved slave. A budding preadolescent romance is described in gentle terms, such as a desire to hold hands. There are graphic descriptions of rape, murder, suicide, and beatings by members of different African villagers against rival tribes, by White sailors against their captives, and by Africans against their captors in self-defense.
Is It Any Good?
This novel in verse is relatable, moving, and sometimes difficult to stomach. In The Door of No Return, Kwame Alexander highlights one of the less-often-explored human costs of the trans-Atlantic slave trade: the quality and fabric of the lives people left behind when taken to west as slaves. The beauty of the language makes it easier to endure some of the graphic scenes. This may be appropriate for mature younger readers despite the violent moments, which are included to give an unflinching look at historical realities.
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Our Editors Recommend
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Amazing Books for Teens Exploring Black History
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