Ghanaian Authors

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Ghanaian Authors

Ghana. The first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence, a regional power in West Africa, and home to 30 million people. Ghana -- like many other African countries -- has a rich oral literature history. For this post, I wanted to discover the writings of Ghanaians, and this selection of books is a good introduction to Ghanaian authors and a peek into Ghanaian culture and history. Each one of these authors has Ghanaian ancestry and was born and/or raised in Ghana.

The Pot of Wisdom retold by Adowa Badoe
Ananse is the clever and mischievous half man/half spider creature and one of the most widely known characters in the realm of African mythology. Originating from the Ashanti people of Ghana, Ananse tales have been told and retold to generations of Ghanaians. In The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories Badoe recounts nine Ananse stories, each filled with his famous trickery and wisdom. These stories offer an Ashanti answer as to how things began to be -- such as why spiders make their webs in the corners of a house or why pigs have small snouts.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Full disclosure, I have tried to give each book a fair review but when it comes to this book I simply cannot. This is the best book I have ever read. I could have written a masters level dissertation about this book here but I will try to limit myself. Born in Mampong, Ashanti region and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Yaa Gyasi received a seven figure advance for her highly anticipated first novel, Homegoing, which is a masterpiece. (I’m trying my best to offer a balanced review, can you tell?) Beginning in Ghana during the Slave trade Homegoing is about twin sisters separated at birth; one sister is sold into slavery, and the other marries a British colonial officer. The novel follows the sisters through their descendants up to the present day. One of the things I love about this book is the amount of research it draws on in telling an accurate portrayal of Ghanaian life before colonization. Yaa describes life in a Ashanti village then transports us to the Cape Coast Castle and forward to the Ashanti-British war with such precision and detail that this book could, dare I say, double as a supplement text in an African history course. There is a way that she personalizes defining moments in history such as the Great Migration that reminds you that this is indeed fiction. I connected with this book because like Yaa my father’s family is from Mampong, we share the same first name (my middle name is Yaa), and we were both raised in the United States. We share the balancing act of navigating this world as Ghanaian-American and black in America.
Gold of Our Fathers by Kwei Quartey
One of the books in the Darko Dawson mystery series, Gold of Our Fathers follows chief crime officer Inspector Darko Dawson as he solves the murder of a Chinese gold mine owner in Obuasi, Ghana. Darko takes us along for the case, and we learn about who killed the mine owner, the intricacies and inefficiencies of police work, and the hidden web of gold mining in Ghana. In America and other parts of The West, the police have a certain procedure in place when a murder happens, and there are similar procedures in place in Ghana -- but the difference between the two are the difficulties that arise at every step. The difficulties are a microcosm of issues common in Ghana such as small scale bribery, run public buildings, and underpaid civil servants.

The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
After gaining independence there is a sweet joy that is infectious in a country. Dreams long deferred are now renewed along with a sense of hope and belief that things will be different, things will be fair and just. Promises from the newly elected are eaten up by the people, and they swell up in pride of what their country has achieved. Seldom do those hopes and promises come into fruition. Written by Ayi Kwei Armah and akin to Chinua Achebe of Nigeria, this novel is set in the years after Ghana’s independence and the last remaining years of Kwame Nkrumah’s presidency. The main character is a nameless man who is having an internal battle on whether or not to succumb to the pressures around him and do something that is against his beliefs or stay on the straight and narrow path at the expense of his wife’s growing disappointment. This novel is set in Ghana but can be transplanted to any post-independence African nation. The man is like any man, someone who was sold a dream by politicians that with them in charge, their fellow countrymen it would be better than life with the colonizers in power. Promises many of them make are electricity-without cutting off-, free education for all, and jobs for every able bodied man and woman. Yet as the man and the rest of his country realize these promises were broken and not only have they been let down but their elected countrymen, who they trusted to turn their country around, but they are now eating off the them and linings their pockets.

The Seasons of Beento Blackbird by Akosua Busia
Solomon Wilberforce is an award winning children’s book author who is in love with three different women, splitting his time with them during each season. It is quite common for people to date multiple partners simultaneously but what makes Solomon different from most men is that these women are frighteningly head over heels with him. Busia writes Solomon as if he is a god; he is intelligent, kind, well off financially, and strikingly handsome. Reading the sacrifices these women make for him turns me off but towards the end the women realize that Solomon is not the light of their lives and begin living their lives for themselves, well two of them at least. 

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Ghana Must Go tells the story of the brilliant but now disgraced surgeon, Kweku Sai’s unexpected death and the reunion of the family that he abandoned. The title is what caught my eye, Ghana Must Go is the term coined during the mass exodus of West Africans, mainly Ghanaians living in Nigeria without the proper documentation in 1983. However, my interest quickly waned after being drawn out by how detailed Selasi can make the most mundane things such as the green grass that Sai was standing on when he had his heart attack. Getting past the slow start was a struggle of mine but it does pay off.