Manu Herbstein (b. 1936 near Cape Town, South Africa) holds dual South African and Ghanaian citizenship. In the 1960s he worked as a civil and structural engineer in England, Nigeria, Ghana, India, Ghana again, Zambia and Scotland. He returned to Ghana in 1970 and has lived there since. He began writing seriously as he approached retirement. His first novel, Ama, a Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, won the 2002 Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Best First Book. It has been published in South Africa and India and a new African edition was launched in Accra, Ghana in September 2010. In the U.S.A, Open Road publishes a print-on-demand edition. A companion web-site, www.ama.africatoday.com, is a rich repository of primary and secondary texts and images related to the novel. Brave Music of a Distant Drum, published by Red Deer Press in Canada and the U.S. in 2011, is a sequel aimed at younger readers. Akosua and Osman won one of three 2011 Burt Awards for African Literature in Ghana. Published only in Ghana, it is not yet available on Amazon. Ramseyer's Ghost is a dystopian/utopian political thriller set in Ghana in 2050. The author turned down an offer from an independent publisher in the U.S., choosing to self-publish with CreateSpace and Kindle. Also available on Kindle is President Michelle or Ten Days which Shook the World, a story every U.S. citizen should read. Manu's latest novel, The Boy who Spat in Sargrenti's Eye, received the U.S.-based African Literature Association's 2016 Book of the Year Award for Creative Writing, awarded for "an outstanding book of African literature, whether novel, non-fiction prose, play, or poetry collection, published in the preceding calendar year by an African writer."
In Ama, Herbstein creates a work of literature that celebrates the resilience of human beings while denouncing the inscrutable nature of their cruelty... This is story telling on a grand scale, literally and metaphorically. The novel spans a geographical frame that reaches from Africa to America, depicting in closely observed detail also the horrors of the Middle Passage. An epic of the slave trade, Ama offers a carefully imagined examination of the failings of humanity when possessed by greed and a desire for power and influence. Herbstein is especially good at evoking the mood of the time, the mind frame of slaves and slavers, and the political and economic conditions that made slavery possible. Tony Simoes da Silva, University of Wollongong, Australia in the African Review of Books. Ama is a sweeping story of Africans caught up in the Atlantic slave trade. Crafted by Manu Herbstein, a native South African who has been a long time resident of Ghana, the book is more carefully researched than some more widely acclaimed novels dealing with Africans in the Diaspora. This book is fast-paced and moving from Ghana and the Futa Jalon to the European coastal forts and the plantations of the Americas, it captures both the horror and complexity of slave trade, which uprooted Africans from many cultures and diverse backgrounds. Christopher R. Decorse, Syracuse University, International Journal of African Historical Studies By casting a female protagonist, Herbstein invites the reader to 'see' the particular nature of women's oppression. Ama's experience shows that gender, race and class are not distinct realms of experience, existing in isolation from each other. Rather they come into existence in and through relation to each other as overlapping discourses and interlocking systems that determine the degree to which male domination and privilege can be asserted. Ama's journey allows us to read the complexities and contradictions of the time, where all classes, free and slave, women and men, black, white and mulatto are in some way interrelated in a dynamic that results from relations of power. Shereen Essof, The Voice of the Turtle An engrossing and powerful story of a woman of courage, intelligence, and strength, Ama is not for children, for the squeamish, or for those who demand political correctness in their history. Ama's author tries to depict the Atlantic slave trade as it was, making no concession to modern revisionism; readers will look in vain for stereotypes in Ama's pages. Herbstein does an admirable job of bringing a strange, harsh world to life. India Edghill, The Historical Novels Review If I have to decide to save three books from a sinking ship, Ama would unquestionably be one of them...The storyline is beautifully written and well plotted, taking you in a journey inside the African world, where you will be stunned by the untold stories about its culture and history, and you will be moved by the fateful events that Ama had experienced. Ali Hammoud, The Cube, Lebanon Nandzi, alias Ama alias Pamela, who lives in a Ghanaian hamlet, is affianced as a child to a man several decades older than her; she is barely into the teens when, abducted by a rival tribe Dagomba, is raped and sold off to the Asante tribe, which in turn sells her off to the Dutch. Thus begins a saga that matches Alex Haley's Roots in its sweep and outmatches it in irony and poignancy. Unlike Roots' male protagonist, Kunta Kinte (kidnapped in Africa, ends up in USA), Ama (kidnapped in Africa, ends up in Brazil) never gives up her fight for dignity. This well-researched novel focuses on how Africans enslaved, exploited and sold off fellow Africans to westerners. Ama's life becomes the metaphor for Africa's degradation. There is a soul-sapping scene wherein enslaved women sing this dirge: "We, too, have died and yet we live still/We are as walking corpses/Hear our voice/Hear our lamentation ..." The Tribune, India