As if you needed more of a reason than this quarantine summer of pandemic-on-pandemic, GhanaMade lists our top 10 recommendations for Ghanaian authored books to read right now. Currently, many of us are choosing to confront our own living trauma and/or our learned insensitiveness continuing the oppression we see in full-force today. This is nothing new for the literary Ghanaian. Since the colonial Gold Coast, Ghanaians’ poetic and cultural traditions have fueled some of this century’s most celebrated and introspective African authors.
Our recommendations are based on what books we believe are best to support our community right now. Enjoy!
10. Journey – Dr. G.A. Agambila (2006)
A coming of age story following Amoah the teenage protagonist on his mission to escape village life in Tinga and live out his modest dreams in Accra. In boarding school, Amoah is confronted with anti-African rhetoric taught in European schools and internal battles of conflicting ideologies between his small village beginnings and the post-colonial, eurocentrism that pervades Ghana after its independence.
Journey is incredibly witty and funny. G.A. Agambila uses humor as a medium to confront palpable cultural tensions in Accra between young and old, educated and illiterate, rich and poor.
9. This Earth, My Brother – Kofi Awoonor (1972)
Born in the Volta region, Awoonor combines typical narrative writing with poetic prose in this part autobiography, part fiction story.
This Earth, My Brother tells the story of Amamu, a lawyer living in Ghana in the midst of independence. Amamu feels alienated not only during his travels throughout Europe facing racism but also in Accra surrounded by the new Ghanaian bourgeoise. No criticism is spared of post-colonial life in Ghana, highlighting the decay of the Pan-African mentality due to wealthy Africans’ acceptance of European values.
A wildly emotional tone examining politics, Christianity, and Ghana’s education system. A great book to understand how bold it is to be a true pan-African: both the moral clarity and the alienation it can cause.
8. Ghana: Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah – Kwame Nkrumah (1957)
The autobiography of Ghana’s first president and arguably, most noteworthy champion. The actual telling of his life in the book is brief, writing about his early life travels, his education and the introductions of those that inspired his mission and stirred his African pride.
Nkrumah focuses the writing on detailing the vision he had for unifying Africa and stepping out of the colonial shadow to create a kind of ‘United States of Africa’. It is a must-read for those who want a first-person account of an African giant leading independence in a continent wholly on the verge of revolution.
The read is information-heavy with some moments that read like a textbook, but at the same time, the reader can take away so much knowledge of Africa’s political history. Read in medium-sized doses.
7. Two Thousand Seasons – Ayi Kwei Armah (1979)
The Fante born, Harvard and Columbia educated author, known for his provocative, stream of consciousness style prose, Ayi Kwei Armah, writes his 3rd novel depicting the trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic slave trade, during the “age of enlightenment”.
The story follows a group of young boys that are tricked into being sold as slaves by a King from a neighboring village. On their ship, leaving Africa, they successfully lead a ship revolt, killing the slavers and returning to Africa to undo the evil they see taking root.
Armah has a very philosophical view of the slave trade and boldly paints colonizers as monsters carrying out a sadistic form of destruction on innocent people. It highlights Arab slavers, European slavers, and the participation of Africans in the rise of the slave trade.
A vividly heartbreaking, poetic and sobering insight into the dark beginnings of the slave trade in West Africa.
6. Tail of The Blue Bird – Nii Ayikwei Parkes (2009)
A mystery novel, by Nii Ayikwei Parkes that challenges modern world pragmatism with century-old tradition entrenched in many Ghanaian villages. Parkes skillfully present the collaboration of both forces to contemplate the mysteries of life.
Tail of The Blue Bird tells the story of Kayo, a Ghanaian-born, U.K. resident and forensics specialist traveling to Sonokrom to solve the murder in a large village outside of Accra. As the investigation continues, his attempts to apply rigid logic to inexplicable happenings leave him at the mercy of village tradition to find answers.
This story serves to remind the children of the diaspora that there is always more to learn from our village family. And those continuing traditions deserve our respect.
5. Beyond The Horizon – Amma Darko (1995)
Amma Darko’s debut novel confronts the subjugation women face in African culture and the social scrutiny that force women to continue in abusive relationships.
The story follows Mara, a Ghanaian woman who is given away in an arranged marriage and soon after sent to Germany on the false pretenses set by her ruthless husband, then forced into prostitution. Darko’s writing does not soften any of the images of exploitation and pulls the reader into the emotional depths to confront issues of patriarchy, colorism, and sexual abuse. Beyond The Horizon rivals the emotional weight of Beloved and is no light reading.
4. Changes: A Love Story – Ama Ata Aidoo (1991)
The powerful writing of Ama Ata Aidoo has had a far-reaching impact while championing the African feminist literary voice.
In Changes, Esi, the main character, an educated, career-focused woman leaves her husband after being raped by him. The last straw in an already failing marriage. Though her family and community chastise her for ending the marriage, she feels liberated and soon finds affection with a friend turned lover Ali.
The story depicts an independent woman navigating her own complex emotions and relationships, many times juxtaposed to the world that surrounds her.
3. The Place We Call Home – Kofi Anyidoho (2011)
A collection of poems by the ewe born, award-winning poet Kofi Anyidoho. Anyidoho comes from a long line of poets rooted in the ewe tradition of oral poetry. His playful lyricism and imaginative prose pull you into moments of the poems without demanding too much emotionally.
The poems in The Place We Call Home show the social and cultural dilemmas Africans face moving back and forth between cultures as well as a celebration of African history and intellect. Anyidoho also highlights ancestral Africans that shaped the present time for the better. The author does not shy away from philosophical moments about aging and death while maintaining a light-hearted mood overall.
2. Faceless – Amma Darko (2003)
The 3rd novel by Ghana-born Amma Darko. In this book, she continues her work of showing life in Ghana from all eyes. Darko writes Faceless confronting a brutal reality for many Ghanaian citizens living in poverty.
An eloquent blend of traditional and contemporary Ghanaian perspectives. Depicts adolescent life in Agbogbloshie, a notorious slum in Accra.
The story follows Fofo, who is sent out of her mother’s house, left to survive in treacherous surroundings. While fending for survival, Fofo is on a search for answers after her sister Baby T is brutally murdered.
In the book, you witness the human cost of a rapidly growing city and the ambivalence of its economic benefactors. An emotional book that vividly depicts what an innumerable amount of children face on the edges of metropolitan Africa. Prepare for a heavy heart.
1. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (2016)
Yaa Gyasi’s powerful debut novel.
Gyasi displays the social microcosms that surround western-born Ghanaians, the legacy of slavery in Ghana, and its very real connection to the lineage of African Americans. All over a span of 300 years.
Homegoing follows the lineage of two sisters living in 18th century Ghana who face starkly opposing fates. Readers witness Effia, the concubine of then British-Gold Coast governor, living in Cape Coast Castle, who’s relatives remain in Ghana until present day. Simultaneously, readers witness the lineage of Esi, who is captured, enslaved, and brought to America.
This book stands to chart the blurry relationship between Africans and African Americans while reuniting us with history and modern-day experiences. Gyasi shows a stark glimpse of Ghana’s participation in the slave trade: kidnapping and tribal wars resulting in the capture and trading of Africans by Africans.
She also addresses issues that are commonly verboten in African households: interracial relationships, homosexuality, mental illness, ableism and colorism.
A must-read for all people of the Diaspora.