My First Coup d'Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa [NOOK Book]

Overview

MY FIRST COUP D'ETAT is a literary nonfiction account that charts the coming of age of John Dramani Mahama in Ghana during the dismal post-independence "lost decades" of Africa. He was seven years old when rumors of that first coup reached his boarding school in Accra. His father was suddenly missing. "It is sometimes incorrectly referred to in texts as a bloodless coup, yet it was anything but," Mahama writes. "They tried, as best they could, with smiles and toffee, to shield me from their rising anxiety but I ...
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My First Coup d'Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

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Overview

MY FIRST COUP D'ETAT is a literary nonfiction account that charts the coming of age of John Dramani Mahama in Ghana during the dismal post-independence "lost decades" of Africa. He was seven years old when rumors of that first coup reached his boarding school in Accra. His father was suddenly missing. "It is sometimes incorrectly referred to in texts as a bloodless coup, yet it was anything but," Mahama writes. "They tried, as best they could, with smiles and toffee, to shield me from their rising anxiety but I could feel it bouncing off the quick sideways glances they shot one another and taking flight like some dark, winged creature." John's father, a Minister of State, was in prison for more than a year. MY FIRST COUP D'ETAT offers a look at the country that has long been considered Africa's success story--from its founding as the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence, to its current status as the only nation on the continent to have, thus far, met the majority of targets on hunger, poverty, and education set by the U.N. But these stories work on many levels--as fables, as history, as cultural and political analysis, and of course as the memoir of a young man who, unbeknownst to him or anyone else, is destined to become a leader in his own land. These are stories that rise above their specific settings and transport the reader--much like the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Nadine Gordimer--into a world all their own, one which straddles a time lost and explores the universal human emotions of love, fear, faith, despair, loss, longing, and hope despite all else.
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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
…a graceful memoir and striking literary debut…a collection of remarkable vignettes that blend a historian's sensibility with a novelist's prose…
—James McAuley
Publishers Weekly
Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated. In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening. As he writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always been... in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.” The book draws to a close as the author’s professional life begins, and one suspects the most interesting chapters have yet to be written. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (July)
From the Publisher
“A graceful memoir and striking literary debut…A collection of remarkable vignettes that blend a historian’s sensibility with a novelist’s prose, Mahama captures the evolution of that consciousness and, with it, glimpses of a nation’s recovered soul.”Washington Post

“This is no typical political memoir. Rather it is the engaging story of a boy coming of age in the “lost decades” of military rule in Ghana that preceded multiparty democracy. Mahama tells it tenderly and well, weaving small slices of history and culture into a family narrative so rich in colour it at times feels like magical realism… Mahama has given us a useful reminder of the bad old days yet the real value of his book lies in its depiction of ordinary life in a time of turmoil – and of how people adapt and carry on regardless.”Financial Times 

"Mr. Mahama is at his best in describing this vanished world. He does so with the eye of a historian and the flair of a novelist…At times the lost world he describes seems almost magical, as if it were populated by fairies and demons rather than real people… His stories  overflow with humanity."Wall Street Journal

"With crisp yet sweeping prose, John Mahama’s memoir, My First Coup d’Etat, provides insights into Ghana’s, and by extension, Africa’s struggle to weather its historical burden and engage with a world much removed from her dilemma. Without sentimentality or condescension, he exposes homegrown African pathologies and helps us understand several contradictions of our postcolonial condition. His is a much welcome work of immense relevance to African studies and deserves serious critical attention." —Chinua Achebe

"These stories reminded me of Isaac Bashevis Singer, whose memories of a vanished world feel half like memoir and half like fairy tale. Readers will be charmed by them. They brim with humanity." —Andrew Solomon, author of the National Book Award–winning The Noonday Demon

 

"Eloquent."Newsweek

My First Coup d’Etat shows an uncommon literary ambition . . . His elegant memoir of those crucible decades lets us see the times that forged his generation as more than just a succession of defaults and dictators.” —newrepublic.com

 

"Affecting and revealing…Ghanaian readers might see this memoir by a current officeholder as a political instrument; others will mainly enjoy the well-crafted anecdotes and images of an Africa that no longer exists." —Foreign Affairs

"Mahama’s stories lure the reader into an unforgettable journey in which he interacts with history as a living tissue. The characters and the episodes are part of the everyday but one imbued with magic and suggestive power that go beyond the concrete and the palpable to hint at history in motion." —Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, author of Weep Not, Child

"Warm and engaging. The view of a complex world in microcosm." —Aminatta Forna, author of the Commonwealth Book Prize–winning The Memory of Love

"In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes."Publishers Weekly

"Sensitive, honest autobiographical essays… A wonderfully intimate look at the convulsive changes, and deep scarring, in post-colonial Africa."Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
From the vice president of Ghana, a series of sensitive, honest autobiographical essays on the "lost decades" in his homeland. Mahama employs the moving devices of fiction to convey these coming-of-age remembrances of how Ghana moved from dictatorship to thriving democracy during the last few decades. The author was 7 years old, attending an elite boarding school in Accra, when the 1966 coup d'etat of Ghana's first president after liberation from British colonialism, Kwame Nkrumah, occurred, and no one came to pick Mahama up from school. He had been living with his father since he was three, separated from his mother, who stayed in northern Ghana; his various siblings, 19 in all, by multiple marriages, were scattered throughout the country. The coup altered their lives irreversibly. In "Sankofa," meaning to "go back and get it," Mahama writes of the desire among the African diaspora to return to their homelands and reclaim their African names (once changed to Christian names), languages and heritages. A gifted student, Mahama stayed in school in Accra, his small world representing in microcosm what occurred on the larger African continent. The newly arrived "bush" boy at the school extorted snacks from the boys until young Mahama bravely resolved to defy him, while the others crumbled in fear. "Why hadn't I seen before that our strength, our key to victory, was in our numbers, our unity?" he writes. In other essays, the author examines his study of history, love of socialist ideology, endurance of another coup in 1981 and exile to Nigeria, and his travel to the Soviet Union. A wonderfully intimate look at the convulsive changes, and deep scarring, in post-colonial Africa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608198863
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 7/3/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,287,149
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

John Dramani Mahama is a writer, historian, journalist, former member of Parliament and minister of state, and sitting vice president of the Republic of Ghana. This is his first book. He lives in Accra with his family and is currently at work on his second book.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The "Lost Decades" 1

My First Coup d'Etat 7

The District Commissioner's Hat 17

Of Silence and Solidarity 39

Wild Lions and Little Boys with Catapults 52

Full Moon Dance 65

How I Got My Christian Name 81

Sankofa 105

Teenagers in Tamale 123

Frozen Fire 139

Praise for the Powerful 161

Union Government 180

Truth Stands 197

Perilous Crossings 210

Ghana Must Go 240

Providence 264

Tovarisch 286

Coda: Return of Hope ... Anaa? 304

Acknowledgements 315

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