ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dorothy Brown Soper
I grew up in Bakersfield, California and graduated from Bakersfield High School. My family spoke English. From kindergarten through high school, I was curious about the Spanish and Chinese languages that I heard spoken at school. I wanted to know how other people could talk with words that I didn’t understand. Learning a new language became a priority for me.
A dynamic teacher in my high school introduced Latin and German to our curriculum. I took her classes along with French. I loved her slides of travels in Europe. She promised that we would be able to talk to people in other countries if we learned their languages. I believed her and wanted to travel as she did.
I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to Stanford University where I majored in French and studied at the Stanford campus in France. When I applied to the U.S. Peace Corps, I received an invitation to teach high school French in Ghana. The job seemed perfect for me and I was thrilled though I knew little of Ghana beyond its location on a map. The Peace Corps trained my teachers’ group but when we left, we were traveling to a country little known to us.
My two years of teaching in a rural boarding high school in Ghana were an immersion in the Akan culture. The school was new and girls were admitted for the first time the year I arrived. I was the first and, at the time, only female teacher in the school and was placed in charge of the girls’ dormitory.
I give great credit to my students, colleagues, and friends who taught me my school duties and about Akan culture. The district chief and his wife, Nana Buadum and Madam Agie, welcomed me and helped me feel at home. After two years, I did feel at home and also empowered by all that I had learned about the Akan people and the accomplishments of an important African culture.
When I returned to the U.S., I earned a master’s degree in African history at UCLA. I wanted to tell Americans about African cultures and history, and especially about the Akan. Studying other languages had made a difference for me. I wish I could have told my high school teacher.
I've lived in Eugene, OR with my family and taught elementary grades in the Eugene public schools for many years. I often developed and taught units about Africa and have seen students respond with fascination. I was always frustrated that there was so little for young people to read about Africa and so few visuals to illustrate African cultures of any historical period. I wrote We Are Akan in response. It is a work of historical fiction with over ninety illustrations that is also an introduction to African history. I hope that We Are Akan will speak to you and encourage you to visit Africa.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
James Cloutier was born and raised in Oregon and graduated from high school in Portland. He received a baseball scholarship to the University of Oregon where he majored in Art Education. While in college, he took part in a Crossroads Africa program in Ethiopia.
After service in the navy, James joined the U.S. Peace Corps and worked in Kenya for two years in the land resettlement program creating audio-visual materials to train land recipients to become cash crop farmers. Returning to the US, he received an MFA in photography at the University of Oregon and pursued a career as a freelance illustrator/cartoonist/ graphic designer. He founded Image West Press and published several books of photography and cartoons about Oregon.
James specializes in portraits, caricatures, and cartoons. His painting of the American flag that first appeared in the children’s book, 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, is now displayed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. The caption reads: To the People of America with Compassion from the Maasi.
James lives with his wife and grandson in Eugene, OR.