REVIEW: King Peggy: An American secretary, her royal destiny, and the inspiring story of how she changed an African village

Book by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman


REVIEW: King PeggyOriginally from Africa, Peggielene Bartels spent most of her working life as an office administrator at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington. Then the phone rang one morning at 4 a.m. and a relative informed Peggy she had been chosen to be the “lady king” of her Ghanaian village, Otaum. The idea was absurd to Peggy, although she was from the royal Ebiradze bloodline. Prompted by a dream, she reluctantly accepted the crown and began shuttling back and forth to Africa, where a dilapidated palace awaited repair. King Peggy is the funny, wide-eyed account of her struggle to overcome sexism, systemic corruption and poverty without losing her will to lead or the love of her 7,000 subjects.

In Africa, Peggy says, women aid and abet scamming men with their own timidity and deference. Not Peggy. Her American notions of equality give her the strength to roust corrupt elders and a scheming priest. She reclaims fishing and land-sale taxes to modernize the village. Appointing a trustworthy regent, she uses her own money to rebuild the palace and restore respect to the throne. One by one, she tackles her people’s problems: no running water, no school, no decent road, no ambulance and no hospital beds. Peggy’s story hits the Washington newspapers and attracts African-American benefactors, who sheepishly visit to discover their roots.

Amongst the episodes of palace intrigue, Peggy makes astute comparisons between her village life and her urban existence in Washington, where she eats alone every night in her tiny condo. In Ghana, she shares a bed with her cousin and is constantly surrounded by squabbling relatives. It’s a joyful chaos that nourishes her soul. Divorced with no children, Peggy finds new purpose as a lady king. Co-author Herman says her interest in Africa came from the fiction of Alexander McCall Smith; she thinks she has met in Peggy a real-life Mma Ramotswe, and readers will quickly agree.

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