When I say “Africa,” what comes to mind? Red dirt? Huts with thatched roofs? AIDS? Poverty? Starvation? Lions? (Please don’t say tigers. Pleeeeeease don’t say tigers.)
As someone who has been to Africa twice, I get really bothered by the media’s portrayal of the second-largest continent. And that’s why I loved Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi.
Ghana Must Go tells the story of a Ghanaian man, his Nigerian wife, and their American children. It starts off with the man’s death in Accra, and the rest of the story unfolds in flashbacks from a wide range of perspectives. His children, who reside in their native America, have to travel to Ghana (most of whom have never been) to make arrangements for their father.
Not only does Ghana Must Go have a beautiful cover, but it also beautifully tells a story set in Africa without the African stereotypes. The family isn’t in extreme poverty. No one is going hungry. No one has AIDS. It’s a regular family just like you could find on any other continent. But it’s set in Africa.
The biggest challenge in doing this is how to avoid stripping the family of any and all culture. However, Selasi captured the culture perfectly. From the food to the language to the clothing, you truly understand what Ghana’s capital of Accra is like.
As many of you know, I studied abroad in Ghana in 2011. I spent six weeks living as an obroni (basically, a white person in Ghana) with my host family (whom I still connect with on Facebook and Instagram), traveling the southern part of the country and learning about its history and culture (including the delicious food!).
When I read Ghana Must Go, I was taken back to those six weeks and wanted nothing more to be back there. After finishing the book, I made myself some kelewele (pronounced kel-ay-wel-ay), or spicy fried plantains. Don’t worry–a recipe will be coming soon.
While there is plenty of drama in the book, my only complaint is that it was too easy to put down. While I don’t think my love of Ghana is the only reason I loved the book, I am fully aware that it swayed my opinion. (And it definitely is the main reason I bought the book in the first place.) That is not to say, however, that others will not love it just as much as me.