Taiye Selasi Examines the World of the Afropolitan in 'Ghana Must Go'

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Author Taiye Selasi describes herself as an "Afropolitan," a member of a distinctly 21st century generation of African origin. The characters in her new novel, "Ghana Must Go," reflect this sentiment as well. Selasi's first book follows the Sai family: father Kweku from Ghana and mother Fola from Nigeria who meet as college students in Pennsylvania in the 1970s and raise their children in Brookline, Massachusetts.

"Ghana Must Go" is, in part, a story of immigration. The Sai parents leave Ghana and Nigeria because, Selasi says, they "were born smart, capable and ambitious in countries that, at that time, could not accommodate such young people." 

Yet Selasi explains that while she believes literature plays a role in making sense of historical conflict, of immigration and colonialism, she focuses her fiction on the rich, emotional lives of her characters first and foremost. Fola may have been orphaned during Nigeria's Biafran War, but, Selasi says, "Her primary scars are not political and they're not historical...they're not generic. They belong to her."

Similarly, Selasi distinguishes between her fiction that features characters of African origin and her non-fiction documentary work. "I write literature because I love literature," she says. "The consequences that extend beyond the world of the novel…are wonderful, but they are not primary." 

"The Afropolitan experience," she continues, "is hugely important to me, as are representations of Africa, but I think of myself as taking that challenge on in a space other than my fiction."


Taiye Selasi

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [2]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

"The Identity Of Consequence" - we all suffer from it. Sometimes, our parents just try to keep it hidden.
In my case, I call it, "My Austrian-Lithuanian Family's Theater Of Death."

Everybody should come up with a title for their own "Identity Of Consequence." Coming up with my title, enabled me to put my life in perspective.

Mar. 12 2013 11:40 AM
Wilburn Williams from Lawrenceville, NJ

This interview is brief--only eight minutes--but in it Taiye Selasi restates in resounding language her belief in the transformative power of literature as literature. The politics of the immigration debate has sparked a good deal of the public's interest in her novel "Ghana Must Go," but Taiye rightly insists that literature has priorities of its own beyond the short or even long-term demands of politics. Her insistence that Fola Sai, like all of the sharply individuated and particularized characters in this novel of heart-stopping beauty and power, is the product of her own psychology, not merely a pawn of history, is instructive. Another breath of fresh air from a writer-intellectual who seems incapable of a stale thought. I hope the fact that I am the author's stepfather neither adds to nor detracts from the accuracy of my observations.

Mar. 12 2013 11:29 AM

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