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King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village Hardcover – February 21, 2012

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A Look Inside King Peggy

Children of Otuam Eleanor and King Peggy in Otuam King Peggy

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Bartels was a native of Ghana living in the U.S., working as secretary to the Ghanaian embassy, when a relative called to give her startling news. Following the death of her uncle, a village king, the council of elders had determined that she would be his successor. Bartels, who’d come to the U.S. to study and had become a U.S. citizen, hadn’t been home since the death of her mother. But she accepted the daunting prospect with determination and brio. She would rule part-time, traveling between Washington, D.C., and Ghana. Bartels, along with coauthor Herman, chronicles her journey from secretary to king of the poor and isolated village of Otuam, 60 miles from the capital of Accra. She becomes reacquainted with distant relatives and her estranged husband as she juggles responsibilities such as refurbishing the modest palace, repaving roads, and burying her uncle before the ancestors can be offended—all on fees collected from fishermen and a secretary’s salary. Balancing cultural differences and sketchy finances, Bartels finds within herself the strength to tackle poverty, tradition, and personal transformation. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385534329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534321
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #529,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By R. Larkin on January 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My sibs and I used to jeer that at each other when one of us was getting too big for his britches; but it actually happened to Peggielene Bartels, naturalized American and secretary at the Ghanian embassy in Washington. Unknown to her, she was the chosen heir of her Uncle Joseph, king of the Ghanian fishing village of Otuam. The omens consulted by the elders had confirmed his unusual choice.

Uncle Joseph, though a king, had not been a wealthy man, so Peggielene had for years been sending part of her modest salary home for the maintenance of her uncle and the village. When a cousin called her one night to tell her to she was the new king, she at first thought she was dreaming.

However, when she flew to Ghana for her investiture she found more of a nightmare. During her uncle's long decline several of the village elders had done very well for themselves; stealing taxes and illegally selling off crown land and pocketing the proceeds. The royal coffers were empty, the palace uninhabitable, and there was not even enough money to bury Uncle Joseph with the honors due a king. With a new mostly absentee king who was a `mere' woman, the elders fully expected to be able to continue to run the town for their exclusive benefit.

In a society where women are still expected to modestly lower their eyes and obey when addressed by men, the elders couldn't have possibly reckoned on feisty Peggielene. Determined that crown revenues should be used for the benefit of the people, she `packed' her Council of Elders with honest and competent men and women and opened the first checking account in the village to track the funds.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Silicon Valley Girl VINE VOICE on January 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Peggy Bartels was a Ghanaian-American woman, working a demanding secretarial job at the Ghanaian embassy in D.C. Separated from her husband, her life outside work was minimal. Then she got a middle-of-the-night call telling her that she'd been elected king of her ancestral village in Ghana -- a village she'd only visited a few times.

Should she accept the offer? Well, of course she should and does, and thankfully we now have this wonderful memoir to read. Peggy saves up her money and goes back to visit her family in Ghana and be installed as king. Naturally she finds that much is not as it should be. And, as we readers expect (but some of the people back in Ghana don't), Peggy shakes things up. Humorous, touching, informative, and totally enjoyable. Don't miss.

Edited to add: If you're on Facebook, you can "like" Ms. Bartels' "King Peggy" page. There are lots of wonderful photos as well as updates about author appearances. As I write it's only "liked" by 16 people, so you can still be among the first!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ann M. Pitman VINE VOICE on January 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First of all, you need to know - I LOVED THIS BOOK! It has everything I love in a book: great characters, a great story line, wonderful humor but best of all, it's a true story! I did not want to go to sleep because I wanted to know what happened next! What will those crazy people do THIS time!?!?!?!

The only complaint I have is that I wanted photographs, LOTS of photographs, so I could see the village and the people, and more shots of Peggy as King, beyond the single shot on the cover.

The things we can accomplish when we put our minds to it . . . . King Peggy proves it!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Man in the Middle VINE VOICE on February 9, 2012
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African by birth, American by choice, and King by calling. This is a most unusual and thoroughly enjoyable true and current story of how one person of limited resources here in the U.S. still had a huge impact in an African village.

On the one hand, we learn a lot about daily life in Ghana, and some of its history. On the other hand, we see in action an economic development strategy that actually works, and incorporates the best of both American and African values and approaches to problems.

Best of all, the story continues, and readers can become part of the story and solution by partnering with King Peggy's ongoing work through her American church.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in better tomorrows for Africa, an economic development model that actually works to overcome endemic corruption, or in need of a reminder about how much of a positive difference one ordinary person can make in our world.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By redhedhs VINE VOICE on February 11, 2012
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The 11-year-old I babysit and I read this book together and both LOVED it. It was the first book I brought over that she was genuinely excited to read, and she followed me around the house after we read the back cover asking me questions ("How do you think she felt to be king? How did she get to be king? What did she do when she got to Ghana?"). It was fun to read the book as quickly as we could to try to find answers to the questions we both had. It's also inspiring to get to share the story of both a woman and someone of color rising to a leadership position AND having to deal with the expectations of others and realities of being a leader.

I have to say, I agree with other reviewers in that I wanted WAY more photos than the one on the cover. I wanted to visualize her as a secretary - what were her days like? And then, in Ghana, what did the village look like? I read another reviewer's suggestion to "Like" her on facebook, so I think my babysitting charge and I will look through the pictures together sometime. However, it would have been nice to just have them in the book.

In all, that didn't detract enough from my enjoyment for this to deserve any less than five stars, since the story was so compelling. Know that this is absolutely appropriate to share with young women, and is a particularly inspiring memoir.
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