Kweku Sai, genius surgeon has died of a heart attack and his estranged family (children and ex-wife)  is flying to Ghana to bury him.


Nope there is nothing more. That is the story in Ghana Must Go.

If you are looking for a drama or suspense-packed novel with bad guys and good guys and the good guys winning in the end then this is not the book for you. In Ghana must go there are no protagonists. There are simply humans; fragile, flawed, searching, and hoping to heal.

With no drama and little suspense, the book is however a page turner. The characters in “Ghana must Go” make the strength of this novel and Ms Selasi’s writing style; phrases that are short, concise yet full of emotion, transform it into a beautiful work of art.

As the each member of the family faces the demons of their past, they learn to overcome their fears and ultimately make peace with each other. In these flashbacks, Ghana must Go explores and beautifully develops the theme of Shame.

Again, Ms Selasi’s wrting is epic. I am still excited by the book. let me share with you a few of my favorite phrases.

On their father’s absence Taiwo thinks:

“Not dead. Never dead. They never wished the man dead or pretended he was dead. Just deleted, walled off. Denied existence, present only in absence and silence. Reduced to a notion.”

Of his wife and daughters the late kweku thinks:

They were dreamer women. Very dangerous women. The thoughts of dreamers were landmines, free radicals. With them a breakfast chat could delve into war.”

I think most men will feel what Kweku feels when he says:

“He has come to understand his basic relationship to women, the very crux of it, the need to finally be sufficient. To know he’s enough, once and for all, now and forever.”

As a mother I cried along with a hurt/ grieving Fola who says:

“ It is useless to love with such force, for the force does not travel, does not keep tHem, protect them, doesn’t go where they go, doesn’t act as a shield.. but yet how to love otherwise?”

I fell in love with Sadie. Last born, sickly child, chubby young woman. I understand what it means to not know what you are good at, to not know what is your talent. I understand what it is to live in the shadow of a strikingly beautiful sister and multi talented siblings.

And ultimately you come to realize:

that home is where there is no shame.”

This book is on my reread list. I loved reading Ghana Must Go. I did not get to read it like I should have, like I wanted to: in long stretches. I need to clear out one of my Sundays for it but first let me find out what Binyavanga Wainaina  writes about Kenya.

Contrary to all other times when I read a book, I started this book by reading the acknowledgments. I could the author’s excitement as she thanked her relatives, friends and Editor. Aha! Then I dived in, with the same expectation and excitement I have when I have a few hours to spare and a good book in my hand. I was even more excited because I was finally beginning my book tour of Africa and I was starting with a book that was set in the very North West province where I spent a beautiful childhood.

It took me several hours to go through the big book. I got to know Yefon, the main character and the narrator of the book. I met her father, a well to do polygamous business man. I caught a few glimpses of her step sister Sola in between her constant beauty treatments administered by her Mom. Along with Yefon and Kadoh, another of her half-sisters, I laughed, and told the kind of secrets I only tell a best friend.

So yes, this is a Cinderella- meets-Mulan story mostly about Yefon, her desire to be something more than a girl child destined for marriage and the not-so-subtle rivalry she has with Sola. The story opens with Yefon as a little girl and follows her through her rebellious teenage years, death of a loved one, and her job at the Parish.

I like the fact that I was reading a book with places I knew and words from a vernacular I could speak. I love a strong heroine and Yefon is a strong character. And like all other heroines when faced with a similar dilemma, sacrifices her dreams, to free her sister from a troublesome man. Just as much as this endears her to me, it also makes her even more determined to not marry just for the sake of it but most especially it reinforces the idea in her head that she needed to get away.

However, there are some things I did not like about the book. The pace was slow. It opens with Yefon as a little girl and for about the next 4 chapters Yefon just describes life as it used to be. The dances, the gossip, the story telling , the fetching water from the stream!! And the words in Lamnso! So for a good 2 hour read there is no action; just a long leisurely walk in the memories of Granma Yefon.
The story began with a prologue; a letter from Yefon to her granddaughter. However during the course of the novel Granma Yefon consistently uses language or similes that is more suited for someone born in the 80’s: Olivia Pope on Scandal, Miley Cyrus Twerking???!!! I am still trying to imagine a mami born in 1940, grew up in Banso until she was 20 and

Exactly! That is how I felt when the book ended with no closure. I understand that there might be a lot of Yefon books but please dear Sahndra, let each one have some sort of closure. It was frustrating for me to hold on to hope all through the book and be dealt with “End of Part 1.”

Habai, Ms. Fondufe, Habai! No do me so.

But despite it all, I am a Yefonite (fan of Yefon). I am fan of strength, of courage, of love and Sahndra weaves those emotions into the book with grace. Good job Sahndra and now I am flying to Zimbabwe to find out what the fuss is about Tsitsi Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions”.

The Sweetness of Tears.

Who would have thought that a lesson in genetics could almost tear a family apart only to bring it together larger, stronger and more bonded than before.
Well you have to read Nafisa Haji’s “The Sweetness of Tears” to believe it.
A beautifully written story that explores the boundaries of faith that divide us and the bridges of humanity that bind us.

As adults or as teenagers who would understand the pain of the teenage girl who suddenly discovers that what she believed about her family all along was fabrication.

We would cheer Jo along on her journey of discovering her roots and as we do so, we would learn that sometimes when you really love someone, you have to let them go.

Ms Haji in her beautiful writing made me discover the humanity in a people (Pakistani) i had previously watched with cynicism.

It was a good book to curl up with.

I am very excited to be back here. I have been away for so long and as such I have fallen behind on all the hot new releases out there.
But allow me to stop right here and insert a disclaimer:

“ I hardly read books as soon as they are published. Same thing for movies.”

There is no reason other than the fact that for me books and movies are to be enjoyed; they come in flavors that should be savored at our own pace.

I appreciate the reviews from the New York Times and other book reviewers out there but I cannot promise that I would give you reviews of just published books because I might not deliver on that promise.
Even though I was away I was able to catch up on some old reading.

I only discovered the beautiful writing of Nafisa Haji in ‘The Sweetness of Tears” and “The Writing on My Forehead” in October 2012.
In January and February of 2013 I savored my Christmas gifts from my bestie Marthe “Gone girl” by Gilian Flynn and “Killing Kennedy”.
In June I had a beautiful baby boy. Kellan loved when I read to him while he was still in my tummy; but more of preggers baby books to come in a later post.

Right now, Baby Kellan is wake-up-once-a-night the night 3 month old and I am ready to find company with my books. I hear “ And the mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is a great place to resume. Will give an update in the next two weeks.

Any other suggestions my dear people???

Happy Reading!

So Long a Letter

Each of us has that book which for the longest time has been on our reading list but somehow we just haven’t gotten round to reading it yet. For me, “So long a Letter” by Mariama  Ba is that book. Or actually, not anymore since I just read it. Yayy!!

I am glad I finally read it.  When I picked it up from the library, there were no expectations in my mind.  I opened and discovered a gem. Human emotions are universal.  They are not defined by place or time.  In So long a letter, the troubles that Ramatoulaye and her bff Aissatou go through are the troubles that most women in many parts of the world still go through.

Divorce, man marrying a girl young enough to be his daughter, a woman widowed and left to raise 11 kids etc. But however, the main character, Ramatoulaye is a strong woman. I guess having 12 kids to look after leaves you n time to wallow in self pity. Even though her content is heavy, (abuse in marriage, early marriage, teenage pregnancy), Mariama is able to keep her reader entertained and lighthearted.  It is the simplicity and honesty in her language and the clarity in her prose, I think

Mariama Ba is a Senegalese paved the way for several authors like Nafissatou diallo and influenced others like Calixte  Beyala. She was one of the first few girls to receive post secondary education and was an activist for women in Senegal. She had nine kids and divorced her husband. Unfortunately, death took her away in 1981, just two years after “so long a letter” was first published. She has another book, Scarlet Song, which I am going to add unto my ‘to read’ list.

RIP Aunty Mariama and

Happy  Reading.

A few people asked me what influenced my picking of the book “N0 1 Ladies Detective Agency” meanwhile I found myself in a library full of best sellers.  Very true but I had promised myself that for the next three months I would read African books and share them with my besties; you all! The reason for that promise…. Here it goes…

It was Sunday and I decided to do my favorite thing for a Sunday. Go and spend some time in the book store. I was also shopping for some presents and I wanted to buy a copy of “Half of a Yellow Sun” for a friend. Isle after row of patiently looking and still no Chima. So I go to the front desk and ask the lady if they have any books by Chimamanda Adichie. She asks me if I have looked properly under the “A” section of fiction writers.  L .  I calmly tell her I think I looked pretty well. Then she looks it up and their system and comes up with a

            “Ma’am we usually carry more mainstream authors in the store. You will have to place an order for it and we will call you when we get it.”

If the lady had simply told me the store doesn’t carry this book it will be fine. After all nobody expects a bookstore to carry a million books.  But no. she checks out my big fro, dismisses my central African accent, and coupled with the “did you look properly?” remark I kind of lost it.

         “What exactly is mainstream anyway? A book is a book and an author is an author. I am sure your reading list is ultimately determined by the New York Times bestselling list. Snap out of it. You are missing out on a lot of great reads.”

But of course, I don’t tell her that. I place my order for the book and continue to the magazine section.

My exchange with the lady got me thinking that maybe my reading list was affected by the New York Times bestselling lists. Maybe I, too, was missing out on a lot of great reads. So I made myself the promise that for the next one year, I would dig and discover all those rare gems from all parts of the world and of course I would share with you all!

My ancestors say charity begins at home and I agree. So for the next three months I will be looking around the African continent for less well known but equally gifted writers and/or poets. I would have started this theme with my boo Khaled Husseini and big sis Chima but then, I consider them mainstream!

Happy Reading!

Wow!  Time passes faster than I can grasp and more so this year. It has been an extremely long time since the last post.  But hey, I am a newbie to this blogging thing. My first pick is not an undiscovered author but is a gem alright.  At the local library, it was one of the new African books which I had not yet read and which piqued my interest.

I came in contact with the N0 1 Ladies Detective Agency about 2 years ago on one of those Saturdays of channel surfing and snacking. Who said TV was all bad? (Even though I have been TV free for 2 months now, I admit TV does have some good points. But more on my new TV free life in another blog post).  What caught my eye was Jill Scott, coupled with the fact that it was a movie with an African setting.

Fast forward two years and I am at a library trying to pick an African book. “So long a letter” is not available right now and while putting that on hold, I take Alexander McCall Smith’s popular book.

I am usually a bit apprehensive when having to read a book about Africa written by someone who in my opinion has some patronizing, paternalistic feeling towards the continent. I am ashamed to have ever thought that way; branding someone as ‘not a real African’.  So it was with this same apprehension I approached this book. After the first few pages, however, I felt differently about this one. There is a beauty and honesty in his prose which can only come from someone who has spent a lot of time contemplating his beloved and who for a long time searched for words to describe how he felt. Then when he had stopped searching the words came to him and he captured them just as they came.

Pure, unadulterated.

I did not always agree with how easily people were willing to give Precious Ramotswe information without any form of ID but then again, maybe that is Botswana. I also think that some of his stories are too unreasonable even for fiction; like the story of the twin brother who posed as the doctor.

However what the book lacked in content and realistic characters, I think it more than made up for in style and language. Blame it on my old soul but I am a little bit more attracted to beautiful prose than I am to the page turning, heart racing Robert Ludlum’s.

But I am most especially glad that my preconceived notion of ‘Real African’ has been shattered. Africans are not necessarily people born and raised on the continent but people who identify with the simple yet true principles of a balanced society. Politeness to neighbours,  respect to elders, honour of one’s parents, looking after the earth because it feeds you and being your sister’s or brother’s keeper.

Happy Reading!

All Things Chima.

Chima. That is how I call the gem that is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I know. I call her as if I have known her my whole life. But that is how I feel about her. She is like a big sister to me and her books are like letters of inspiration. When reading her books I feel like the little sister who has been handed some of her big sister’s jewelry and makeup and is in awe at their power to transform.

I discovered her back in 2011 when I read “The thing around your neck”. I liked two of the stories in that collection but I was not very moved by the other ones. As such I could not remember what the other stories were about without glancing through the book.

And then last month I read “Purple Hibiscus” and “Half of a Yellow Sun”. Obtaining those books was an interesting trip to the book store which I blog about in a later post.

I like the way Chimamanda uses description in her books. Instead of making the book tedious to read, like extensive description usually does, the descriptive phrases in her novels make her characters come alive. It makes it so easy to visualize the place, the people. It is almost like reading a book in 3D.

“Nnamabia looked so much like my mother. With that honey fair complexion, large eyes, and a generous mouth that curved perfectly.” From the short story Cell One

I like the way Chima has drawn from her childhood to make her stories believable. Nsukka is the place where she grew up. I guess her parents were a little bit of the strict but doting parents described in Cell One. I guess she must have known families where some sons were truant or where some fathers where a little bit too strict.

Sometimes I wonder if she would be able to tell another kind of story.  If she would be able to get away from the middle class, university professor setting and venture into Okada drivers in Lagos, the power circle of business and politics. But then again; maybe that is not her story to tell.  Thank you, Chima, for telling your own stories so well.

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