I’m a pretty savvy reader. I can usually extrapolate the context of a book from its language, its word(age) and its characters. However, Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi, has left me somewhat stymied. I haven’t yet understood/absorbed the connection of the title to the subject matter/characters. This, even though, like the author, I was born of African immigrant parents who lived in the “Greater” Boston area. This, even though, like the Sai children, my parents’ silence and reticence about their non-immigrant past contributed to my feeling of being a “stranger in a strange land”. These feelings, the semi-broken connection to this book that I initially loved the language of, reinforces my connection to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story. There is not a single immigrant story and there is definitely NOT a single African immigrant story. Maybe that’s what I need to absorb and “walk away, walk away (I will follow)“. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’d love to find myself in Africa like Sadie, the youngest of the Sai children. What I do know is that I wish that when my father called me to Africa (Salone), like Kweku called Olu, I had acceded, even if the outcome turned out be as devastating as it was to Olu. I wish I had that experience of my parents’ homeland(s).
The above is part of the context in which I’m struggling to articulate my take on Ghana Must Go. As I mentioned earlier, initially, I was in complete thrall with Selasi’s writing style, particularly as it related to Kweku. But as I read on, almost all the characters, with the exception of Mr. Lamptey, gardener cum housebuilder extraordinaire, spoke in the exact same language even though they didn’t share the background, in a literal sense, as Kweku. After a while, it became an exercise in disipline to finish it but finish it I did!
All in all, I feel as if the book (and the characters who populate it) is incomplete. Kweku’s story is almost completely fleshed out and I was with him until the story segued into his children’s story, which seemed to start “out of the blue”. That ‘abrupt’ transition could, possibly, be a metaphor for their life stories but still, it jarred.
However, it must be said that this is Selasi’s debut novel and I definitely do look forward to her next novel so that I can get more of a grip on her writing style and whether this ‘hiccup’ was an one time thing or simply how she writes.
Addendum: Sadie, the youngest Savage. Her dance at the end of the novel was simply and affirmatively restorative and magical.
Book one of the African Reading Challenge.