OWOSSO — Barber Karl Manke just released his 11th novel, and he wants the over-arching theme of his latest work —“Freedom Challenged” — to be, well, freedom.
Manke, who grabbed local and national headlines by refusing to close his barber shop during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, said his latest work took about “eight or nine” months to complete. He began writing in March 2020, he said, and insists the book is not related to his battle with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Manke was eventually victorious in his battle with state politicians, and even though he says the book has nothing to do with COVID-related events, the theme is important.
“For every person born, there is no time when a person is free,” Manke explains. “The only time people are of this mindset is on the day we were born.”
Manke’s newest work tells the early 19th century tale of four people, two each from Ghana and Germany.
Kumi and Abina are from Ghana, while Willie and Magdalena hail from Germany. The book outlines the Middle Passage slave trade, and follows their stories.
The characters all eventually find their own versions of freedom, something Manke says is important to remember.
“We all come out of the womb free for a brief second,” Manke said. “We’re all created in the image of God. From that moment on, in various ways, each of our minds, bodies and souls become the property of others… That’s kind of the idea in this story — each one of us are born free. For that very brief moment. And then that struggle begins.”
Manke added that he believes people in positions of power or authority, since the beginning of time, have always attempted to limit the freedom of others.
“So this story is of two types of slavery,” Manke said. “One was the type of a young German boy and girl. The tradition was the father would take the inheritance of the land, and give it to his oldest son. He had other sons who it was necessary for him to find some type of living… The tradition was that you would indenture your son to a tradesman. An indentured man had no freedom.”
In the book, Willie’s story of seeking freedom is contrasted with that of Kumi, who is captured in Africa and forced into slavery.
“He was sold to the Dutch,” Manke said. “Not for money, but the tribal chiefs wanted power.”