Monday, June 17, 2024

Book Tour + #Giveaway: The Year of Return by Ivana Akotowaa Ofori @_Akotowaa @RABTBookTours


Horror / Fantasy

Date Published: May 21, 2024

Publisher: Android Press


In December 2019, as Ghana's vibrant streets buzz with the climax of the "Year of Return," an initiative marking 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were forcibly taken to Virginia, Adwapa, a Ghanaian journalist living in the U.S., decides to journey back to her homeland. Accompanied by friends, she seeks to reconnect with his roots during this historic commemoration, unaware that the trip will lead them into the heart of a mystery that transcends time and reality.

As the celebrations reach their zenith, the Atlantic Ocean, witness to untold horrors of the past, begins to stir with an ancient and restless energy. From its depths emerge the spirits of the enslaved, those who perished in the harrowing Middle Passage, returning not in peace but in turmoil. Their emergence sends shockwaves around the globe, transforming the "Year of Return" into a haunting spectacle of reawakened histories and unresolved grievances.

As the line between the living and the dead blurs, Adwapa finds herself caught in a whirlwind of supernatural events and historical reckonings. With each passing day, the ghosts grow more powerful, their centuries-old sorrows manifesting in a series of chilling, vengeful acts that threaten to unravel the very fabric of the present.


Praise for The Year of Return

"Ivana Akotowaa Ofori’s THE YEAR OF RETURN is a haunting, darkly evocative tale of the ghosts of the past, delivering a harrowing vision of history’s undeniable grasp on the present and the future alike."

          —Kevin Wabaunsee, assistant editor at Escape Pod, former managing editor of the SFWA


"A moving and timely perspective on one of the greatest horrors in human history. Ofori presents ancient and recent events in a startlingly original take about our responsibilities to our past, our present, and our future."

          —R.S.A. Garcia, Locus, Sturgeon, Nebula and IGNYTE Award finalist


Interview with Ivana Akotowaa Ofori
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
The most recently read book to do that for me was probably Eloghosa Osunde’s Vagabonds! The way Osunde played with interlinked characters and stories that connected to one another more according to themes than events was a revelation for me. The form, the style, the point-of-view choices, came together almost like a masterclass in craft. Before Osunde, I don’t think I was aware of how far an African writer especially could break the rules of what a fiction book is. There have been some chaotic undertones in how the book is marketed because of how defiant it is, and it’s amusing to witness.

How do you select the names of your characters?
For my Ghanaian characters, I stole a few names from my extended family members—Adwapa and Gyebiwaa especially. For the others, I suppose I just liked the way they sounded, although I tried to match the phonetics to the characters’ cultural origins. For example, the softness with which the “ch” in Charlene is pronounced is common in the French language, but the pronunciation of “lene” feels very English to me. The name felt appropriate for a character from the Gambia, which feels sometimes like an Anglophone island engulfed by a Francophone sea.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Not many people are aware that I’ve made it into a challenge of sorts to insert at least one spider reference into every story I write, even and especially when the story has nothing to do with spiders. I adopted the spider as my totem of sorts back in 2017, and it’s fun for me to find ways to weave the symbol into all of my fiction.

What was your hardest scene to write?
For this novella, it was probably the very first scene. I think I have ten drafts of that one alone. Beginnings, for me, can be difficult to get right, and I felt the pressure of making sure the hook and the language were impressive enough to compel a reader to keep going, not to mention trying to artfully introduce most of the main characters. The setting—one of Ghana’s slave castles—already carried a deep emotional weight, and it called for a lot of care in how I handled the ways various characters interacted with that space.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Apart from the spider references that I’m choosing to turn into a type of signature, I’m very happy to have each book stand on its own. I’m excited to explore different genres as my body of work grows, and I might just consider it a privilege if certain audiences who love some of the things I write don’t particularly connect to others, because of how different they are.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
I had many implicit intentions for this book. One of them was to write a Pan-African story in the sense that it is relevant in some way to descendants of Africans everywhere, on the continent and in the diaspora. The events of this book have a deliberately global reach, although the execution is limited by my own knowledge, experiences, and priorities. Another intention was to write a story—as a Ghanaian author who still lives on the continent—that refused to excuse modern Ghanaians from confronting the real and terrible history that took place on our land and involved our ancestors. Too often, I find our attitudes towards trans-Atlantic slavery, as something that had little to do with us, grating. Now that the book is out in the world, I suppose the reflection it provokes within its readers will determine how successful I was.

What inspired you to write The Year of Return?
The biggest influence is my undergraduate education. I was an Africana Studies major. I went into college intending to major in English, but African history arrested my attention from my first semester. The most influential resource I was exposed to, which planted the seeds of this particular story in my head, was Stephaie E. Smallwood’s Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. I had never thought about what death in the middle of an ocean would mean to people whose concept of a successful transition into the afterlife was deeply dependent on access to ancestral land, or any land at all—an inaccessible commodity upon a slave ship. It provoked a lot of “what if” questions that eventually led to this book. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the next books or what you have planned for the future?
I don’t expect to ever again write something based on The Year of Return’s premise or world. I’m currently working on very different projects including a secondary world African fantasy novel that tackles some difficult philosophical questions and messes around quite a bit with the deities of different pantheons.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Year of Return?
My core group of characters make up a deliberate mosaic. There’s Adwapa, my protagonist, born and raised in Ghana, but moved to the US for college. There’s her best friend, Charlene, born in the Gambia but emigrated to the US halfway through her childhood. There’s Oneisha, the African American visual artist who is deeply spiritual, and her unlikely boyfriend, Randy, an American with Italian and Spanish ancestry, who works in finance. They are all in the second half of their twenties, and each of them experiences the events of the story in subtly or dramatically different ways, based on their cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds—something that was very important to me.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Frankly, this book was a little more frightening to write than it was enjoyable. Chattel slavery and its long-lasting impacts make for a sobering writing experience. But one thing that became particularly enjoyable during revisions was developing the relationship between my protagonist, Adwapa and her mother, Florence. The relentless teasing of some West African parents can occasionally be as hilarious as it can be irritating. 

About the Author

Ivana Akotowaa Ofori is a Ghanaian storyteller. Known also by the alias of “The Spider Kid,” she is a weaver of words in many forms, including fiction, non-fiction and spoken-word poetry. Akotowaa has been nominated for various awards for her prose writing. Her work is included in the Flash Fiction Ghana anthology, Kenkey for Ewes and Other Very Short Stories, and the Writivism anthology, And Morning Will Come. Writing aside, Akotowaa spends much of her time looking for excuses to make everything purple. She has been included in the Africa Risen Anthology 2022 ( with her short story, “Exiles of Witchery.”


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