“Then Ghana, and the smell of Ghana, a contradiction, a cracked clay pot: the smell of dryness, wetness, both, the damp earth and dry of dust. The airport. Bodies pushing, pulling, shouting, begging, touching, breathing. He’d forgotten the bodies. The proximity of bodies. In America the bodies were distant. The warmth of it”
I picked up this book from the library because I was intrigued by the title. Years ago, a Ghanaian family friend told me how in the early 1980s many Ghanaians moved to Nigeria to escape political tensions in their country. Supposedly many Nigerians weren’t happy abut this influx of political refugees, thus the term “Ghana must go” was coined.
The book is about Ghanaian doctor Kweku Sai loses his job in the US, abandons his Nigerian wife and his four children and moves back to Ghana. Years later, when Sai dies from a heart attack, his family, who have not been in regular contact in the previous several years, go back “home” to Ghana for the funeral. The rest of the story outlines what they had to deal with after their father left.
I found this book so tragic. The entire family was hurt in one way or another by Sai’s abandonment, as their personal stories show. One scene in particular was truly awful and I had to skip over the majority.
Selasi is a wonderful writer and this is such a great debut. Her writing is very beautiful and lyrical, though there were some instances where I wasn’t sure who was speaking as the point of view changed so abruptly. Sometimes she interrupts her straight-forward prose with something like this:
“Taiwo pursed her lips to mute her revulsion, but what she felt next had no shape and no sound:
An odd emptiness, weightlessness, as if she were floating, as if for a moment she’d ceased to exist: some new odd sort of sadness, part grief, part compassion, a helium sadness, too airless to bear.”
I like the fact that Selasi wrote a story about the African diaspora. I think it’s still a relatively new concept in African literature. I read somewhere that Selasi coined the term “Afropolitan” to describe Africans in the diaspora, and I hope to see more Afropolitan literature in the future.