Politics and Prose (which rather surprisingly brings in some good African, or Africa-focused writers, Peter Godwin, Dambisa Moyo, etc.) hosted Taiye Selasi, an extremely worldly emerging young (early 30s) writer of Ghanaian and Nigerian descent tonight.
Selasi began by quoting a passage from The Economist, making a few subtle digs at the publication (something that will always go down very well with me). She then transitioned to reading from 2 passages of the book. I normally don’t like being read to, but her rapid fire recital of the novel’s dialogue, combined with a very melodic voice, lulled me into a rather trance-like state. The title of the book “Ghana Must Go” leads me to believe that it must at least anecdotally touch on the Nigerian expulsion of Ghanaians in the early 1980s, something that has always interested me, but which I know little about.
Selasi stated that she had always wanted to be a writer, enjoyed reading, and despised math. However, when she entered undergraduate studies at Yale, she felt that she had entered a “judgmental space” and stopped writing. It was only a personal challenge from Toni Morrison, who she got to know as a graduate student at Oxford, that got her back on the writing track.
Selasi has a very engaging personality; DC was the 4th stop of a 17 stop tour to promote Ghama Must Go, and I suspect that by its conclusion, her star will rise greatly (perhaps approaching that of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is scheduled to speak at P&P at the end of May). Ironically, Selasi’s story fits nicely into the Africa Rising narrative being promoted by publications like The Economist (she said that she sees a common humanity and writes to particularize the human, not merely African, experience). Her ties to Africa however, do not seem that extensive. She said that she travels to Accra, Ghana frequently, but she was born in England, raised in the US, and currently resides in Rome (she spoke highly of Italy and joked about its ‘2 minutes’ as a colonizer in Ethiopia).
I did not buy her book following the talk, but I was certainly sufficiently charmed to leave with a desire to read it. Selasi seems to have gotten quite a break as she is being much discussed and feted with only an extremely small amount of work behind her. Perhaps that is evidence that Africa is indeed rising.