The haunting first novel of an 'Afropolitan' writer


Novelist Taiye Selasi comes from a diverse background. Born in London to a Nigerian mother and Ghanaian father and brought up in the United States, she writes in English but now lives in Italy. Her first novel, Ghana Must Go, which has recently been translated into French, is every bit as hard to classify as its author – other than the certainty that it is evidence of a new and distinctive voice on the literary landscape. Mediapart has conducted a lengthy and fascinating interview in English with Taiye Selasi, a video of which can be seen below. But first Christine Marcandier explains some of the main themes of this remarkable début novel.

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Some first novels proclaim immediately that you are in the presence of a new, distinctive voice. So it is with Ghana Must Go, which has recently been published in French as Le Ravissement des innocents (literally,'the ravishing of the innocents'). It was written by a young author whose own life is something of a saga in itself. Taiye Selasi was born in London to a Nigerian mother and a Ghanaian father, but was brought up in the United States and now lives in continental Europe – in Italy to be precise. In a 2005 article she coined the word 'Afropolitan' to describe her status as an “African of the world”. She wrote: “You’ll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes. Some of us are ethnic mixes, e.g. Ghanaian and Canadian, Nigerian and Swiss; others merely cultural mutts: American accent, European affect, African ethos. Most of us are multilingual: in addition to English and a Romantic or two, we understand some indigenous tongue and speak a few urban vernaculars.”