Two books on my List: Ghana Must Go and Americanah

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 2.12.17 PM Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 2.05.10 PM

I always come back to reading. Recently most often on a Kindle as I adore new fiction and with a Kindle get my fix in seconds after pushing the button! Buy! (I also love that I get a sample of every book, by the first couple of pages you just know, you know?) This month, I plan to devour these two books.

1. Ghana Must Go by Tayie Selasi

This book has been very hyped, for instance by the Economist, suggesting

“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.”

I like the clever title, the fact that it discusses Ghana in a literary way and the fact that a Ghanaian novelist is hyped! Its exciting. See also, or hear, rather Penguin’s Debut Author Program with an interview with the author. She was also on BBC this morning…Did I say hyped?

2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

Well, for this book, there has been much less hype than I would have expected. But then again, I am a huge lover of Ngozi Adichie’s literature and have read all her books, hoped to meet her and used some of her novels for teaching, so I might be biased. This book, she promises in a Guardian interview is a “unapologetically old-fashioned love story”. I simply can’t wait!

What books are on your list?

Blogs I Read: Book Blogs

I love book blogs. For someone who loves reading they are icing on the cake in the best possible way.  They are at times like substitute book clubs, discussing every possible aspect of a piece of literature and at other times, like beautiful notice boards, helping you navigate the depths of information out there.

In Ghana there are two book blogs to “write home” about.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 5.46.46 PM

1. Accra Books and Things – All Ghanaian literary releases, events and personalities get featured on this blog which also covers library issues and other things you did not know you were interested in!

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 5.41.56 PM

2. Kinna reads

Kinna reads and writes about her readings. She has also introduced me to high tech reading lists, challenges and a host of international, especially African, book blogs.

I am proud to say that both originators are friends of mine and active members of BloggingGhana. Below I caught them at a book event last year, Kinna to the left, Nina slightly further away from the camera.

Ghana book bloggers Kinna and Nina


Kofi Annan’s Memoir and Other Biographies

Today, I went to the launch of Kofi Annan’s memoir, “Interventions, A life in war and peace”. I tried to tweet from the event, but had some problems with my network. Hence, I’d like to share my twitter reports here.

Before I do, I must confess I stayed until the end of the program to get my hands on a copy. I love memoirs. It is something special about a “true story”. Especially when told by a successful member of the community. Reading their story is like getting a moment to converse with them. Last it was President Mahama. Today it is Kofi Annan. Who’s next? If you are thinking about doing me the honor, check out this free online creative writing course that discusses, among other things, how to write a memoir.

Did I get the book? No, it quickly sold out. I guess I am not the only one loving memoirs…

Here to my reporting from the evening:









  If you have read all the way here, thanks for your patience! By the way, did I tell you about when I invited Kofi Annan and his Swedish wife Nane to our wedding? No? Well, I guess that is a story for my biography!

Book Reading in Accra with Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Last Wednesday evening, there was a book reading at a coffee house and bookshop in downtown Accra. I have been busy ever since, but still wanted to write something about it. So better late than never, here it is.

The Accra literary crowd is not spoilt with world renowned authors coming to share their work, so it was an exciting evening. Author Nii Ayikwei Parkes, fulfilled most of our expectations. “Literature is a way to have fun”, he mused. With a clear voice and a warm smile, he read his Spoken Word poetry, sang some lines from a favorite song and shared highlights – with some extra italics – from his book the Tail of  the Blue Bird (a Ghanaian crime novel that I loved, and I don’t easily warm up to this genre. Maybe this is another post, though).

The discussion that ensued touched on many different topics, but in the center was issues about editorial concerns about readers’ capacity to understand African literature (names, expressions, contexts), the localization of language and Parkes way of using italics to highlight Akan words and expressions in his book.

Parkes, book bloggers Kinna Reads and Accra books and things in blue and other guests at the Sytris book and coffee shop in Osu.

Maybe the most rewarding thing with the event, apart from meeting a wonderful writer, was that in the crowd I know we had some of the next authors out of Ghana!

See all my pics from the event here.

Student Mobility Book-Agony

Monday again! This week I am concluding my literature review rewrite. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up, so it will be a busy week. More importantly, I will have to find the book “Student mobility and narrative in Europe: the new strangers” by Elizabeth Murphy-Lejeune. Well, that is I have found it already, now I will have to find a way to read it!

First of all, lets look at what this book is:

  • A new key text in my narrow research field of student migration.
  • Key as in cited in 92 places!
  • Introducing the concept of student mobility that I think would be extremely useful for my theoretical frame.
  • a European case study, which in part could be very interesting to duplicate in Ghana.

Now, remember how I bought a Kindle, predominantly for these situations? Needing a book in far-away Ghana (far away from Internetshopping that is). Well, I never knew an e-book could cost USD 148! Really, Amazon and Routledge, really? It is almost painful when it is a book I would so love to read!

The Google books version only covers the introduction and not the much anticipated “Chapter 3: Student Mobility: a taste for living abroad.”

All help, or plain sympathy, is much appreciated!

This is a Migration Monday post with the double aim of sharing with you what my research is all about and for me to integrate my academic stuff with my blogging!

Achebe, Szymborska and Kindle: My 2012 Readings

Inspired by one of my newly discovered favorite blogs, Kinna Reads, I will hereby attempt to answer the question “What are your reading plans for 2012”?

Overall, I just hope to read a novel a month, because really this is looking like a very busy year, professionally. When reading is part of your work, I have come to realize that “relaxing with a book” does not have the same allure. Then add a nursing baby as the cherry on top!

Still, what self-respecting writer-wannabe can live without reading?

Right now, I am reading Achebe‘s Anthills of the Savannah, slowly, slowly. I like it, especially the idea of capturing a corrupt government from the inside, but stylistically the constant switch in persons telling the story confuses me. Plus I want to know if any part of this book can be used for understanding dictatorship, say in a classroom. Hence, I need time. I am also reading the collected works of Wieslawa Szymborska with the same non-speed. Now, this slow reading is for a completely different purpose. I read slowly to create my own images and because I like to think about that these are all the poetry we will ever have by her as she passed away earlier this month.

Then I am trying to get used to my Kindle. See pic! The reason I since October 2011 own a Kindle is all due to book-bloggers Accra Books and Things and Fiona Leonard. They convinced me that reading off a Kindle is just like reading from a book, only better. As ordering books to Ghana is a lil’bit of a nightmare, I normally fill my suitcases with literature. BUT STILL, if in Ghana when one hears of a new book, waiting is included. Enter the Kindle. In seconds one can get books of interest. Seconds! I am not even exaggerating! It is amazing really.

So far, I have read Fiona Leonard‘s book the Chicken Thief in full and many samples of books (they are free). Right now, I am “involved in” two non-fiction books on my Kindle. One is book on teaching critical thinking by bell hooks. I find it extremely relevant and am happy to finally be reading “the author without capital letters”. The other book by Ester Perel is called Mating in Captivity and is about long-term relationships. Interesting topic and great, flowy prose. My friends were right, by the way. Reading off a Kindle is better than reading from a physical book.

As I am bilingual, my reading habits are as well. I have read a collection of shorter texts Avig Maria, by Mia Skäringer. I have a few softbacks I might turn to, and my cook books, but maybe there will be less reading in Swedish now that I have a Kindle? The reason is the Kindle only carries English titles as you have to buy them off a big American chain store…

Kinna has promised to report monthly on her reading progress. Let me not make any promise of that sort, I would rather like to know about your plans!

My Experience of 9/11 2001 in the US (and a Book)

Book cover for "Life After Sept 11th, 10 stories from New York" by Marianne Lentz

Some time ago, my Rotary Scholarship mate from my year in the US, got in touch. We met in 2001 at Reinhardt College in Georgia, US. She is now a journalist and was doing research for a book about the aftermath of September 11th 2001. She wanted me to tell her what I remembered from that day. This is the text I sent her:

“I woke up in my dorm room in the morning of 9/11. It was an ordinary day and after taking a shower I reviewed my Spanish homework. As I was sitting on my bed doing that, I suddenly hear my roommate Michele screaming and run over to her. She has the TV on and screams as she points to the set. As we are watching we see the smoke coming out from the first of the two World Trade Center towers and a distraught speaker voice talks about a second plane and we watch in amazement as that plane hits the second tower.

She has already her phone in hand and calls her mother in Uruguay and hostfamily – the hostfather works in the WTC…I run back into my room as I hear my phone ring, its my hostdad. I dont remember if he is trying to calm me or himself down, but  he is letting me know he believes “it is Bin Laden who is behind all this”. It is the first time I hear the name.

Before I am off to class, the news reaches us that also Pentagon in Washington DC has been hit. As I have a friend living in DC, I want to hear she’s alright. I phone her, but cannot get through. A few moments later the news presenters on TV urges the public to stop calling friends and relatives to allow for the phone lines to be used by emergency workers. I feel pretty stupid.

In Spanish class, we talk about what happened and in a later class we stand in a circle holding hands in silence. I channel my confusion and sadness over the events by walking around campus taking pictures of the nature. (I can look for the pics if you think they would be interesting for you, but I dont think thery were very special) During the day, we realize that also Atlanta, a mere 45 minutes away, and its headquarters for CNN and Center of Disease Control are possible targets. The threat creeps closer.

Already the same afternoon, American flags are hanging out from many windows. Over the next weeks, we will fear that our drinking water has been poisoned, that antrax can be sent to our mailboxes and that the terror can strike at any time again. At this time, I had spent only one month in the US, but could still clearly feel that this day had changed everything.”

Today Marianne Lentz’s book is out. It ended up being an interview book with 10 New Yorkers, their memories of that dreadful day and how it impacted on their lives. It’s currently only available in her native Danish, but hopefully soon in English too. I’m proud of you, Marianne!

Mental Health – Ghana’s Next Crisis?

Photo: Nyani Quarmyne

After water and traffic, will mental health be Ghana’s next big challenge?

According to photographer and fellow blogger Nyani Quarmyne, 2,4 million Ghanaians are estimated to sometime in their life be in need of psychiatric help. With not more than a handful psychiatrists and around 2000 hospital beds, it is clear that most Ghanaians in need will be left without any help.

On Tuesday, I went to see Nyani’s beautiful, hopeful but also deeply disturbing photos, depicting the mental health crisis in Ghana. There were women who had been locked up by their men, men who were starring blankly in front of them, elderly with their mentally ill grown children with no help, but also the man at a health facility that was rearing chicken and the man who had secured a job with Zoomlion after years of mental illness.

The pictures that got to me the most was probably the ones with men fastened to tree trunks (like the one above), one outdoors, seated on a stone, one naked in a dark clay house. Imagine, having your family put your foot through a big chunk of wood and then closing the whole with an ironrod so that you could not escape…keeping you in a dark room…there you are, like an animal…so hopeless somehow…

Then there was the picture of the records keeper at a psychiatric hospital in Accra. In a blue nurse’s dress, between thousands and thousands of  files, she has her desk. The filing system looks ancient and clearly is overflowing the space. Yet, she comes to work every day. I was thinking about human defiance…

Fellow blogger AntiRhythm was also there and voiced his critique this way:

“Families cannot afford about 25 Cedis (about 13 Dollars) a month to pay for the drugs that would create the right chemical balance which would make us call these unfortunates normal.

So they are shackled and manacled to prevent aggression or injury to themselves or embarrassment to their families.

When I saw it, I asked blogger Fiona: What country is this? I knew the answer; I feared the answer; I feared facing up to more evidence about the different layers of existence in this country.”

The NGO that partly sponsored this photoproject, BasicNeeds Ghana, has extensive programs that target thousands of people with mental illness or epilepsy, predominantely in Northern Ghana, but also in Greater Accra. They also have a knowledge project with several worthwhile publications available online, and now also a glossy book with Nyani’s photos – “Ghana, a Picture of Mental Health”.

I wish Ghanaians would have a glance through, we need to know what is happening to the weakest in society right now…

My Spring Semester

Finally Monday!

Today I start teaching this semester’s course, still at Ashesi University College. I will be teaching one course, Social Theory, to two cohorts of 50 students each. Last year, I did a blog for my class the Social Theory Blog…although it went great and was much fun, this year, I think I will do something else. I believe in doing new stuff and developing as a lecturer. I got some inspiration from Ken Bain’s book “What the best college teachers do” (courtesy of my mother) over Christmas. Will keep you posted.

My classes will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays, one in the morning, one just after lunch. On Tuesdays I will be in my office for administration (read: grading) and office hours.

I also guide three final year students towards their final thesis. This is challenging and fun and I hope I also get to see them almost every week until April when their paper is due.

The other part of my work is research. This year, I hope to be able to spend most of Thursdays and Fridays at Legon/Institute of African Studies working towards my PhD. Thursday mornings is graduate seminars, and the rest of the time I’d spend in the library or in meetings. I am aiming for building a strong relationship with my three (3!) supervisors and putting together a questionnaire to be able to collect my quantitative data by the end of the semester. I have no idea if that is feasible, but I feel like I have been reading forever and now would like a grip on the empiry!

So, there you have my spring and my aspirations.

Ghana International Book Fair with Tranan

Today, I am going to the 9th Ghana International Book Fair, taking place at the Trade Fair in Accra.

There I’ll be meeting up with Sara and Styrbjörn from Swedish publisher Tranan which publishes African writers in Swedish. I will also meet their counterpart in Ghana, Akos from Sub-Saharan Publishers and hopefully also have some time to browse around and buy some books. Maybe even run in to my colleague Accra Books and Things!

This weekend, the Book Fair in collaboration with Tranan will hold some interesting workshops, one on Creative writing that I plan to attend.

I feel so lucky to know these interesting people and to be able to experience Ghana’s own book fair, because what is better than books?

Today Afrika 2010 Starts

Afrika 2010
A selection of the writers on their way to Gothenburg. Source:

…and I am not there!

Afrika 2010 is this year’s book fair in Gothenburg, Sweden – this year with an Africa theme. There will be African writers, Swedish kulturtanter or “culture ladies” (this concept should probably be its own blog post), African publishers, world class artist Dobet Gnahore, a few of my friends and books, books, books!

You who are there, enjoy for me too!

All Work, No Play

I have so much to do these days

Setting the alarm on 6 am

Waking up to full-packed days

Full-packed bags

I feel like a dolphin in a sea of A4 sheets

Happily hopping between meetings and lectures

Always reading 4 books, 5 articles and the latest email

Staying in the office until it is dark outside

Keeping a note pad by my bed for all the things Which I Must Not Forget

Setting the alarm on 6 am

Waking up to full-packed days

How I have been waiting to be this busy