A “buoyant” and “rapturous” debut novel (The Wall Street Journal) about the transformative power of unconditional love
Electric, exhilarating, and beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go introduces the world to Taiye Selasi, a novelist of extraordinary talent. In a sweeping narrative that takes readers from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, it is at once a portrait of a modern family and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are.
A renowned surgeon and failed husband, Kweku Sai dies suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of his death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts their circuitous journey to one another and, along the way, teaches us that the truths we speak can heal the wounds we hide.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Taiye Selasi was born in London and raised in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in American studies from Yale and an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford. “The Sex Lives of African Girls” (Granta, 2011), Selasi’s fiction debut, will appear in Best American Short Stories 2012. She lives in Rome.
What People are Saying About This
Taiye Selasi is a totally new and near perfect voice that spans continents and social stratum as effortlessly as the insertion of an ellipsis or a dash. With mesmerizing craftsmanship and massive imagination she takes the reader on an unforgettable journey across continents and most importantly deeply into the lives of the people whom she writes about. She de-"exoticizes" whole populations and demographics and brings them firmly into the reader’s view as complicated and complex human beings.
Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go is a big novel, elemental, meditative, and mesmerizing; and when one adds the words "first novel," we speak about the beginning of an amazing career and a very promising life in letters.—Sapphire
Taiye Selasi is a young writer of staggering gifts and extraordinary sensitivity. Ghana Must Go seems to contain the entire world, and I shall never forget it.—Elizabeth Gilbert
Nell Freudenberger, The New York Times Book Review:
"Selasi’s ambition—to show her readers not "Africa" but one African family, authors of their own achievements and failures—is one that can be applauded no matter what accent you give the word."
The Wall Street Journal:
“Irresistible from the first line—'Kweku dies barefoot on a Sunday before sunrise, his slippers by the doorway to the bedroom like dogs'—this bright, rhapsodic debut stood out in the thriving field of fiction about the African diaspora.”
"Ghana Must Go comes with a bagload of prepublication praise. For once, the brouhaha is well deserved. Ms. Selasi has an eye for the perfect detail: a baby's toenails 'like dewdrops', a woman sleeps 'like a cocoyam. A thing without senses... unplugged from the world.' As a writer she has a keen sense of the baggage of childhood pain and an unforgettable voice on the page. Miss out on Ghana Must Go and you will miss one of the best new novels of the season."
The Wall Street Journal:
"Buoyant... a joy... Rapturous."
"[Selasi] writes elegantly about the ways people grow apart — husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and kids."
"In Ghana Must Go, Selasi drives the six characters skillfully through past and present, unearthing old betrayals and unexplained grievances at a delicious pace. By the time the surviving five convene at a funeral in Ghana, we are invested in their reconciliation—which is both realistically shaky and dramatically satisfying… Narrative gold."
The Daily Beast:
"Selasi’s prose… is a rewarding mix of soulful conjuring and intelligent introspection, and points to a bright future."
"Powerful... A finely crafted yarn that seamlessly weaves the past and present, Selasi’s moving debut expertly limns the way the bonds of family endure even when they are tested and strained."
Publishers Weekly (starred review):
"Gorgeous. Reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri but with even greater warmth and vibrancy, Selasi’s novel, driven by her eloquent prose, tells the powerful story of a family discovering that what once held them together could make them whole again."
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love:
"Taiye Selasi is a young writer of staggering gifts and extraordinary sensitivity. Ghana Must Go seems to contain the entire world, and I shall never forget it.”
Sapphire, author of The Kid and Push:
"Taiye Selasi is a totally new and near perfect voice that spans continents and social strata as effortlessly as the insertion of an ellipsis or a dash. With mesmerizing craftsmanship and massive imagination she takes the reader on an unforgettable journey across continents and most importantly deeply into the lives of the people whom she writes about. She de-'exoticizes' whole populations and demographics and brings them firmly into the readers view as complicated and complex human beings. Taiye Selasi's Ghana Must Go is a big novel, elemental, meditative, and mesmerizing; and when one adds the words 'first novel,' we speak about the beginning of an amazing career and a very promising life in letters."
Teju Cole, author of Open City:
"Ghana Must Go is both a fast moving story of one family's fortunes and an ecstatic exploration of the inner lives of its members. With her perfectly-pitched prose and flawless technique, Selasi does more than merely renew our sense of the African novel: she renews our sense of the novel, period. An astonishing debut."
Ghana Must Go is both a fast moving story of one family’s fortunes and an ecstatic exploration of the inner lives of its members. With her perfectly-pitched prose and flawless technique, Selasi does more than merely renew our sense of the African novel: she renews our sense of the novel, period. An astonishing debut.—Teju Cole
A Conversation with Taiye Selasi, Author of Ghana Must Go
What's the origin of Ghana Must Go?
The story came to me "whole," as all stories do. I'd been waiting, thirty years I think, to write a novelthat is, to receive a story worthy of the form. It was the autumn of 2009, and I'd gone to a yoga retreat with one of my best friends in Sweden. Something about the experiencewaking up every day at 5 AM to do karma yoga, pulling shrieking beets and carrots from the frozen earth, sitting in meditation meditating on hypothermiamust have jolted the thing out of me. I was standing in the shower when I saw all the Sais, all six of them, just like that. My friend and I abandoned the retreat, took the train to Copenhagen, and settled into the Admiral Hotel. It was there that I wrote the first ten pages of the novel, or perhaps more accurately: wrote them down.
What do you mean by that?
I love this Philip Glass quote: "I don't write music, I write it down." This is certainly how prose always feels to me: something remembered, something recorded, rather than a thing created. The rest of the novel took about two years to write. A crushing heartbreak, a six-month writer's block, and a rather impulsive move to Rome later, I finished a novel that told a story I already knew, had always known.
Where do you find inspiration? Are there any books that have stayed with you and influenced your writing?
I read the high school canon with great attention more because I was a good student than because I was a good readerbut three books reached out, grabbed me by the heart, and never let go. Lolita, The Great Gatsby and The Unbearable Lightness of Being changed the way I thought of novels, because Nabokov, Fitzgerald and Kundera seemed so utterly unafraid of breaking the rules. They were the three most beautiful novels I'd ever read, and lit some still-burning fire in me, a years-long desire to find and if possible to create the beautiful work. For me, this 'beautiful work' is text (novel, film, music), densely gorgeous, rich, lush, twisted, wise, created by some courageous artist who, at least in his art, is free.
After high school I stopped writing fiction altogether. I focused instead on mastering the arts of exposition and analysis, spending 7 years writing essays but never any fiction. It was in these years of drought that I discovered The God of Small Things and Moon Tiger. Neither ever left me. These novels reminded me (painfully at the time) of what prose can do that exposition cannot: render the whole world truthfully and beautifully. The worlds that Roy and Lively wrote were so familiar to me in their color, texture, grief, joy. Somehow their portraits touched my deepest memories of travel and made me again wish to create beautiful worlds of my own. At the same time I rediscovered my childhood love of photography, which sort of pushed me toward wanting to capture the beautiful world however I could. The two books, together with my Canon 5D Mark 3, continue to push in that direction.
You spend your life moving between placesRome, New Delhi, New Yorka theme that plays a key role in Ghana Must Go. What attracts you about voyages?
I have never stopped adoring the character I loved most as a girl: the beautiful wanderer. My favorite stories to read and to write before high school were fantasies: warriors flying around on dragons, princesses, magicians, wise women, journeyers. There was always that same story: someone wandering in search of something. I always loved it. In adulthood I found my way to Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco and Eucalyptus by Murray Bail, and felt that I'd found the most precious things of all: adult fairy tales, grown-up wanderers. I knew early on that I wanted to write fantasy, magic realism, but only after reading those books could properly imagine how.
Your writing is richly visual, but also rhythmic. Has music been a source of inspiration to you as a novelist?
Music has been as important as literature in this regard. Studying cello and piano taught me to write in rhythm, to receive words with meter, to compose in bars. I also developed a taste for a certain type of music: minor key, full of pathos. It's just what I liked best, what I wanted to listen to, how I wanted to play: Brendel playing Sonate Pathetique, Rachmaninoff playing himself, Danse Macabre. A Russian teacher Marina once scolded me for playing the piano adaptation of Grieg's "Ase Tod" perfectly but without pathos; I think of her often while writing. "The king has died," she cried. "The king is dead! You have to play these first chords as if you grieve his death." In some strange way, learning to play that way taught me to write that way, too. It's nothing I give much thought to while it's happening, but I can always see it after: Marina taught me to, demanded that I play not just the notes but the grief.
Who have you discovered lately?
In music, Susan Lewis, who runs Alicia Keys' production company (for whom I adapted a screenplay), alerted me to the genius of Elle Varner.Adore. I'm also presently smitten by Michael Kiwanuka, Meleni Smith, and the simple throwback 90s-style love songs of The Damon Hamilton Project. In art, the brilliant Frenchwoman Laure Prouvost can do no wrong in my eyes, and in letters: Chiara Barzini, NoViolet Bulawayo [We Need New Names is a Summer ;13 Discover pick. -Ed.], and Hannah Kent.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Master piece! Very well done Ms. Selasi. I'm a fan!
This book was beautifully written. As the book progresses, you become engulfed in the drama and trials of the family and see their growth over time. It is definitely a must read.
I haven't read any other books by this writer but now I am a fan. The one she builds the story kept me turning pages. As well as the accurate descriptions of people and places. It's truly a unique voice and eccentric way to weave a story.
Ultimately we are all searching for the place we call home. Wanting so much to buy into what others define for us. Depending on your generation and culture it can be harder than it appears. Taiye Selasi deals with race as Americans view it, West African culture, loss as only Africans know it and a desire to move past our past. Amazingly touching and relatable to a person of any race but particularly to those of us who are made of more than one race. It touched me in so many way.
Rich, complex, distinct character development of a family in the wake of Kweku Sai's death. The characters are sympathetic through their flaws, and their reactions are plausible given how family history has affected them differently. Different, worthwhile.
"Ghana Must Go" is the poignant, indelible tale of an immigrant family, brought together by the promise of the American dream, torn apart by the nightmare of racism and betrayal by family, but ultimately reunited by the power of love and African tradition. A stylistic tour-de-force, this novel enthralls and enchants. Selasi's supple lyricism is informed by a fierce, unblinking intelligence that analyzes the fatal legacies of colonialism as deftly as it plumbs the recesses of the individual human heart. In "Ghana Must Go" the political is personal, and the personal is political. When you reach the final pages of this glorious celebration of the power of language, you pray the story will never end. This is a book of substance to be savored by seaside vacationers and scholars alike. In her underground classic essay "Bye Bye Babbar," the brainy and unearthly beautiful Ms. Selasi has already added a new term--"Afropolitan"--to contemporary discourse about the African Diaspora. If this is the Age of Afropolitanism, "Ghana Must Go" is its founding testament.
A Circuitous Look! Taiye Selasi weaves an intricate web through the use of short, staccato sentences as she takes a circuitous look into the lives of the six Sai family members. The patriarch, Kweku, deserts the family in Boston and never explains that he has been fired as the chief surgeon. He became the scapegoat after he was unable to save the life of a member of a very powerful family. He leaves his wife, Fola, their son, twins and youngest daughter. The reader is allowed to dip into all of their lives and see how each suffers from his absence. Years later, he dies after hearing that Fola has moved to Ghana where he is living with his second wife. Their children travel to Ghana to attend his funeral and they bond as a unit. Selasi uses a unique method of storytelling and her wisdom leaves much to chew on.
Sorry darlin",I tapped into MORE BY THIS AUTHOR and it looks like GHANA MUST GO is TAIYE SELASI'onlly book as of yet.It's been a little over a year since you posted your review so who knows,SELASI may have a work in progress as we're"SPEAKING"Good luck Doll. Be kind to one another. Granny B.
Very confusing to get into this story. I'm having a struggle to keep going...maybe it will get better by page 150? YIKES...!!