Ghana Must Go – Taiye Selasi : A Review

Written by : Peace Osemwengie

Title : Ghana Must Go.

Author : Taiye Selasi

Publisher : Penguin Group

Published: March, 2013.

ISBN : 978-0143124979

Ghana Must Go is the first full length novel of British American, Taiye Selasi. Selasi has Nigerian-Ghanaian origins and currently lives in Rome. Ghana Must Go may be regarded as her debut novel and the book was nominated for a NAACP Image Award.

The book opens with ‘Kweku dies barefoot on a Sunday before sunrise‘. This continues in a present tense narrative and soon enough, the background story comes up. The book revolves around Kweku Sai, a foremost Ghanaian surgeon in the USA who loses his job because of some slight issue that is made complicated because of his race. This in turn causes him to make decisions that negatively affect his family. A family tentatively fragile, the bonds that bind them taut with tension. The kind of tension that you don’t speak about for fear of snapping the already fragile strands. His wife, Folasade, who gives up law school to be a stay home mom until the children are older hides her emotions under the mommy mask. But she is stunningly beautiful, so much so that Kweku’s friends wonder what she sees in him. Olu, the first child idolizes his father and wants to be a surgeon like him. Taiwo and Kehinde are the twins,hazel eyed and sharing a bond that is almost mystic. Sadie is the last, somewhat like an afterthought. She is the child that nearly kills her mother, she grows up feeling the weight of that on her shoulders.

Kweku’s fear of failure ultimately translates into a series of choices that plunge his family into the depths of pain. “he said very simply that he was sorry and he was leaving. That if she sold the house at value, she’d have enough to start again. That it was quite possible that he had never really deserved her, not really.” Kweku goes back home to Ghana and begins a new life. But his family left behind in the USA quickly spirals of out control and sacrifices have to be made, some of them so painful that they define the children when they become adults.

The book is poetic in its writing. The narrative alternating between the past and the present, is utterly gripping and holds you in its thrall until you are done. Selasi commands imagery and language like a master. ‘Ghana Must Go‘ is a book that is worth the hype. The themes of family and afropolitanism ring consistently throughout the book. Selasi goes down and dirty in exposing the dirt that is in the word ‘family’. She throws out the dirty linens; the betrayal, the anger, the rage, but in the end, she tells you that family is the most important thing. Pain is resonant in the book, but that is part of its appeal. It is what makes it the book that it is.

The book is relatable. One expects a distinct thread of Africanism, instead you are treated to a veritable feast of Afropolitanism and the potential of the African outside the clutches of corruption, war, hunger and racism(post-colonialism). There is an Olu in every African today, there’s a Sadie trying to find herself, there’s a Taiwo grieving silently and angrily, and there’s a Kehinde wishing for rightness and craving normalcy. There’s a Kweku and a Fola, making decisions for others, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Selasi is a refreshing new voice in contemporary African literature and we love it.

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