Taiye Selasi, a writer and photographer of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin, has officially launched her much-acclaimed novel, ‘Ghana Must Go’ in Ghana, with a recent book reading session at the Villa Monticello. The event which was attended by Ghana’s literary community including literary giants such as Professor Atokwei Okine, Afua Sunderland Addy and Ama Atta Aidoo, as well as diplomats and students, saw Taiye reading selected portions of the book. The session was moderated by Ghanaian photographer and TV host, Eric Don Arthur. The event was a presentation by AccraPremium and it was hosted by Melissa Mensah
‘Ghana Must Go’ is a three part book that tells a captivating story of the multicultural Sai family. Kweku Sai, a renowned surgeon and failed husband is dead. He succumbs suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of Kweku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Ghana Must Go is their story.
During the event which was attended by Taiye’s mum, she was quick to explain that the tale in her novel was all fictional although it bears some semblance with her multicultural and cosmopolitan upbringing. Selasi was born in London, England, the elder of twin daughters. Taiye means first twin in her mother’s native Yoruba. Selasi means “God has heard” in her father’s native Ewe. Her parents split when she was young, and she first met her biological father at 12. She was raised in Massachusetts in a family of academics. Her mother, a pediatrician in Ghana, is renowned for her advocacy of African children’s’ rights. Her father, a surgeon, has published numerous volumes of poetry, one included in the literature curriculum of Ghana. Well, I have not read the book yet so enough of my analysis! Here is a review of ‘Ghana Must Go’ by Margaret Busby which was published in The Independent, UK.
Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts the Sais’ circuitous journey to one another. In the wake of Kweku’s death, his children gather in Ghana at their enigmatic mother’s new home. The eldest son and his wife; the mysterious, beautiful twins; the baby sister, now a young woman: each carries secrets of his own. What is revealed in their coming together is the story of how they came apart: the hearts broken, the lies told, the crimes committed in the name of love. Splintered, alone, each navigates his pain, believing that what has been lost can never be recovered—until, in Ghana, a new way forward, a new family, begins to emerge.
Ghana Must Go is at once a portrait of a modern family, and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are. In a sweeping narrative that takes us from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, Ghana Must Go teaches that the truths we speak can heal the wounds we hide.The dramatic consequences of Kweku’s first departure are apparent only after his final exit, with the gathering for the funeral. The narrative, steeped in emotion and all kinds of love and betrayal, swirls with revelations that span generations and cross national boundaries, from West Africa to New England, London, New York. Flashback and remembering are key to the structure.
I wish Selasi freedom from the burden of anthropological analysis of her novel in terms of “Africanity” (the guide to Pronunciations may not help; I never read a novel with a glossary spelling out that Cholmondeley rhymes with “dumbly”). While insightful about migration in general, Ghana Must Go (the title refers both to the 1983 episode when Ghanaians were expelled from Nigeria – Ghana did something similar to Nigerians in 1969 – and to the nickname of the ubiquitous red-and-blue checked plastic holdall beloved of travelling market women) deals with its own creative particularities.
It is the uninhibited risk-taking with language and allusions that sets it apart. Back in 2005, Selasi wrote an inspirational essay in which she coined the term “Afropolitan” to cover those – like herself – whose geographical and cultural hybridity allows them to shape-shift fearlessly, carrying with it the need for constant self-definition.
By and large, Selasi totes her baggage elegantly, and every so often throws out a phrase to stop one in one’s tracks, as when Fola awakes from a dream of drowning in the ocean: “Sparkling fear foam, and roaring.” I became increasingly fond of her almost perfectly balanced rhythms (often in 6/8 or 12/8 metre): “Kehinde is listening to Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre, the screaming of a kettle and the heat’s steady whir.” By contrast, she favours a literal breathiness for effect: “It works. The spell breaks. The pang ebbs. He snaps back. Short of breath.”
It has to be said that the opening section of the novel (“Gone”) takes time to find its feet, as it were; by Part II (“Going”) the author is well in her stride, and with Part III (“Go”), it is practically a dead cert there will be no stopping Taiye Selasi. Prize-winning material, I’ll wager.