Even When Your Voice Shakes

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Pub Date 15 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2022
W. W. Norton & Company, Norton Young Readers

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A young woman speaks out against her wealthy abuser in this riveting YA novel from one of Ghana’s most celebrated children’s book authors.

When Amerley is offered a job working for one of her mother’s old school friends, she knows she has to accept. Her wages will feed her family, help her sisters stay in school, and ensure that her mother won’t have to worry about them. Amerley’s move to Accra isn’t easy, but she soon settles into her new life away from her small village—until she is raped by the son of her employer. Torn between keeping quiet to keep her job and speaking up for herself and for justice, Amerley must decide how to live her truth, and the impact of her choice will be felt through her entire community.

Through the life of an ordinary girl from a small country village, Even When Your Voice Shakes exposes the damage wrought by institutionalized misogyny and poverty and reveals how even those who are most disadvantaged are never without their own power.

About the Author: Ruby Yayra Goka is a dentist and a writer from Ghana. Six of her young adult books have received CODE Burt Literary Awards for Young Adult Literature. She lives in Accra.

A young woman speaks out against her wealthy abuser in this riveting YA novel from one of Ghana’s most celebrated children’s book authors.

When Amerley is offered a job working for one of her...

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ISBN 9781324017110
PRICE $18.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Even When Your Voice Shakes is a gorgeous young adult novel with something older readers can take away, too. Ruby Yayra Goka writes in a literary way that explores identity, expands characters, and invites us to consider. A story well worth sharing in a classroom or school library.

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This was an incredibly moving story of a family's circumstances in the slums of a village in Ghana, which change when the eldest daughter has the opportunity to work as a live-in maid for a wealthy relative. The author gives voice to cultural traditions and the culture shock that occurs when there are different values, communication styles, and even a discrepancy in how one is treated depending on social class.

Things come to a head when Amerley is sexually assaulted, and there is an attempt to hide the crime. The author does not shy away from the grim realities of how her rape is viewed by various people and the cruel things that are done to her. The story ends on a hopeful note, with an emphasis to speak out and see justice carried through.

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Even When Your Voice Shakes had me in tears, both because some of the experiences our protagonist endures are heartbreaking and painful AND because the writing, Amerley, and the ending are so poignant and powerful. Goka creates an immersive and captivating narrative in which Amerley experiences some horrific things and must choose her course of action - she must decide how to best care for herself, for her family, for her future, her safety, and her community. Set in Ghana, Even When Your Voices Shakes was a quick read for me and I was immediately ensconced in Amerley's world. It's a relatively concise book, and Goka is a very skilled writer. The prose is beautiful and effective, and all of those things made it thoroughly un-put-down-able!

Thank you so much to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance copy. I will definitely be recommending this to the educators and library specialists I work with, and can't wait to read more from Ruby Yayra Goka!

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A powerful read of a young girl, Amberley, striving to take care of family due to an absent father and a mother who has emotionally checked out on her family. What seemed like a wonderful opportunity to move to the city and work for the wealthy friend of her mother's friend puts Amerley in harm's way, leaving her with the difficult choice to speak out against the one who harmed her, jeopardizing her job, or remain silent and risk continued abuse.

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An inspiring tale about a young girl who is raped by her employer's son where she must choose to stay silent or make her voice - and story - heard. I adored the writing style of this novel, not only because of its beautiful prose, but also its seamless incorporation of Ghanaian slang. I especially loved Amerley's characterization as a hardworking, loyal sister and daughter. I do wish more time was spent exploring the aftermath of Amerley's rape (instead of Amerley's silence and eventual justice being brought about in the last 20% of the novel) but, overall, I thought this was a solid young-adult debut that deals with these timely, oh-so-important themes with the utmost care.

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When Your Voice Shakes follows Amerley, a teenager working to support her family in Ghana. When her story starts out, the family is facing not only significant financial issues, but emotional/mental health issues that mean Amerley is the primary caregiver for herself and her three younger sisters. A solution to their very precarious situation arrives at their doorstep in the form of an old friend of Amerley’s mother, Auntie Rosina, who is offering financial support in exchange for Amerley working as a maid.

Amerley reluctantly accepts the position knowing how it will benefit her family. While living and working at Auntie Rosina’s, Amerley is raped. Now she has to weigh coming out against her rapist, when she may not even be believed due to pervasive misogyny and victim blaming, or staying quiet to maintain the income that is keeping her whole family afloat.

The subject matter of this novel is heavy and difficult, but Ruby Yayra Goka approached it eloquently through creating characters that the reader emotionally connects to and not shying away from sharing Amerley’s internal dialogue. In addition to the core story, I felt that Ruby Yayra Goka did a wonderful job seamlessly including background and insight into Ghanian culture and day-to-day life. The ending felt empowering and as a reader I finished feeling glad that I read it, even with the tough subject matter.

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This is a story about Ghanian teenager, Amerley who is left to take care of herself, her mother and 3 sisters after her mother has a miscarriage with another daughter. Their father, upset about not having a son, leaves them to fend for themselves despite him being only breadwinner. Goka writes a captivating character with Amerley; who does everything in her power to keep her family fed and housed and her sisters in school. A rich distant relative pays their growing debt in exchange for Amerely working as a house help for 2 years. Even though it's a lot of strenuous cleaning work and everyone isn't the nicest, she has a successful side business fixing clothes and ends up enjoying living adjacent to wealth; where she had her own comfy bed, hand me downs of fancy clothes & left over food from meals. Things were going relatively well until Amerley is raped by one of the boys living with the family. The scene is not graphic or detailed at all which I did appreciate. She wrestles with whether she should tell anyone until he beats her up so brutally she has no choice. The rich family tries to keep her quiet and avoid going to the hospital but she learns her rights from a neighbor lawyer. After Amerely spoke her truth as a survivor other girls all over Ghana began to do the same. This story ends shortly after with an epilogue 8 years into the future with Amerely applying to law school to help other survivors like she was helped. I wish the emotional turmoil and aftermath of the rape was dealt with more as the story ends very shortly after. However I loved reading this book and watching Amerley grow into herself.

This is a book can be used as an introduction the #MeToo movement
And how difficult it can be for survivors to come forward
As well pointing out the damaging stereotypes people all over the world have with rape (i.e blaming the victim)

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