Arts, Culture & Media

Book 'Ghana Must Go' explores the lives of Afropolitans

This story is a part of

Global Nation

This story is a part of

Global Nation


Author Tayi Selasi's first novel Ghana Must Go, focuses on the emotional lives of her characters. (Photo by Tayi Selasi.)

The scars that can be carried by someone leaving for a new land are fictionalized in Tayi Selasi's first novel "Ghana Must Go."

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Selasi's novel follows the fictional Sai family as it moves from Nigeria and Ghana to the United States. While the story isn't real, the issues it raises and that the family faces are very much so.

Kweku, a Ghanaian doctor, and his Nigerian wife Fola, move to raise their children in Massachusetts. But through the journey, the family faces psychological burdens carried by the parents.

In all migration, individuals carry scars of leaving their families back home, in order to get something different, better hopefully, in a new land, Selasi said.

In the book, the parents and their children desperately try to create a sense of home "out of very disparate elements," Selasi said. "Their parents are from two different places. And then their parents are in two different places because they split," she said.

After her father was killed at the beginning of Nigeria's Biafran War, Fola leaves Nigeria for Ghana, then the United States. But her father's death isn't what causes her scars, Selasi says.

"Her primary scars are not political and they're not historical ... they're not generic. They belong to her," she said. "I don't think these are the scars of being immigrants ... but the scars of being these people."

The internal emotions of the individual characters define who they are until the characters decide otherwise, Selasi said. 

"Ghana Must Go," speaks to a community of people of no place and everyplace who Selasi calls Afropolitans.

The Afropolitan experience is an important representations of Africa in Western media, Selasi says, because there are distinctions between each country and city. 

"I write literature, because I love literature," she said. "The consequences that extend beyond the world of the novel ... are wonderful, but they are not primary."