Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Ghana Must Go by Taiye SelasiGhana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

Reading up in Ghana

As Christmas approaches, there are few better presents than a good book. Ghana's ever-growing literary movement is putting the country on the world map


Carving its way out of the ‘West African literature’ hold all category and emerging as a genre in its own right, Ghanaian fiction has received due credit in recent years with young authors taking the reigns from the likes of Kofi Awoonor (This Earth, My Brother, 1971), Ama Ata Aidoo (Our Sister Killjoy, 1977) and Ayi Kwei Armah (The Healers, 1979). Ghana’s new generation of writers includes poets, successful bloggers, authors of young adult fiction, crime fiction and strong contenders on ‘recommended new novelist’ tables in bookstores across the globe.

Probably last year’s most talked about novel of this realm is Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi. It leaves readers with plenty to chew on, with its unusual narrative style and complex characters. The intelligent Ms Selasi has certainly stepped into the literary world with a grand entrance (her fan base includes Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie). The story revolves around a Boston family of six  - the mother Nigerian, the father Ghanaian - whose mixed up lives repel and retract like a rubber band. Accra is referred to more as a backdrop to the storyline, however it is obvious the city and Ghana are familiar territory for Selasi with descriptions such as “lush Ghana, soft Ghana, verdant Ghana, where fragile things die” and “the smell of Ghana, a contradiction, a cracked clay pot: the smell of dryness, wetness, both, the damp of earth and dry of dust.” Selasi enjoys flitting between hot, slower paced Accra and crisp, snow covered Boston to contrast characters old and new/ past and present / child and adult.

Another writer to look out for is Mamle Kabu (aka Martina Odonkor), whose poetry and short stories have won her several prestigious literary awards, including the Burt Award for African Literature in 2009. Born and raised in Ghana, it is apparent from her writing that Ghana is a key source of inspiration. Take for instance her poem ‘Orange Juice’ which describes a person’s dying wish to enjoy the taste of fresh orange juice “from oranges that are yellow/Not orange, Oranges from the forests of Ghana/Grown wild in cool shade/And careless beauty’”

Making waves in young adult fiction is Sophia Acheampong, whose Growing Yams in London (2006) depicts a 14-year-old Ghanaian girl, Makeeda, who tries to balance her Ghanaian upbringing and family expectations with typical teenage London life. The story is funny and very readable for young readers and their parents.

Ghanaian literature seems to be having a revival moment, with young authors rivalling their forefathers and mothers of the 70s. Today’s strong army of writers means the country is getting recognition from around the world and encouraging more young writers to put ideas onto paper. Annual literary festivals such as the Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival and regular poetry readings places such as the Nubuke Foundation increase in attendance numbers and media coverage with each event. Last year’s Yari Yari symposium (The Organisation of Women Writers of Africa) was held in Accra and featured female authors, playwrites and poets such Sapphire, Dorothea Smartt and Janet Badjan-Young to name drop but a few. 

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