Whenever we talk of Ghanaian literature, the names of the usual suspects pop into the mind of the average Ghanaian – Ama Ata Aidoo, Kofi Awoonor, Efua Sutherland and the like.
This is great. It is important to honour our heroes and remember them, even after they are dearly departed.
But did you know there is a new crop of Ghanaian writers making waves here in Ghana and also internationally, far from their motherland? We present to you 10 Ghanaian writers that need to be celebrated more often.
1. Yaa Gyasi, Age 26
Fresh from the dizzying success of her debut novel Homecoming, Yaa Gyasi is one to watch. Her novel spans eight generations and paints a vivid picture of slavery. And oh, it earned her a seven-figure advance – yeah , that’s at least one million dollars. The novel was released to universal critical acclaim. Yaa graduated from Stanford with a degree in English and studied at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which is considered the USA’s best MFA program.
2. Taiye Selasi, Age 36
This brilliant mind in 2013 gave the world Ghana Must Go, a novel bought by Penguin Press before it was even done. It was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. You may remember her dad Lade Wosornu from your SHS days, as the writer of the poem The Master Brewer.
3. Ayesha Haruna Attah
Ayesha was educated at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and NYU. She has published two novels. Harmattan Rain (2009) was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and Saturday’s Shadows (2015) was nominated for the Kwani Manuscript Project.
4. Esi Edugyan, Age 38
Esi studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and Johns Hopkins University before publishing her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne (2004). Her second novel Half-Blood Blues (2011) was announced as a shortlisted nominee for that year’s Man Booker Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction. She won the Giller Prize and an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for her novel.
5. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Age 39
Nana Ekua was inspired by her culture shock while attending Mfantsiman Girls’ Secondary School in Ghana, to write her debut novel Powder Necklace, which received praise from readers and critics for its honest language and colourful portrayal of Ghana. She has contributed to African Writing, Los Angeles Review of Books, Sunday Salon, AOL, the Village Voice, Metro, JET Magazine, EBONY Magazine, and Parenting.
6. Nana Awere Damoah, Age 41
Chevening scholar Nana Awere Damoah is quite popular on Ghanaian Facebook and is regarded as something of a mentor by many a budding writer. Apart from his short story collection Tales from Different Tails, his four other books are non-fiction. He most recently launched Sebitically Speaking, which was well received by the Ghanaian literary scene.
7. Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Age 42
This Achimota-educated performance poet, writer and sociocultural commentator was in 2014, named as a top writer as part of Hay Festival’s prestigious Africa39 project. At 17, he founded filla!, Ghana’s first student-run national magazine. His debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, was published by Jonathan Cape in June 2009. It was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
8. Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, Age 49
Meri is a Ghanaian-American writer, journalist, and public speaker and is best known for her 1998 memoir Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression. Her maternal grandfather happens to be J.B. Danquah of The Big Six. She has taught at the University of Ghana. Meri is senior editor of African literature and culture at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
9. Benjamin Kwakye
Born in Accra and educated at Dartmouth College and Harvard law School, Benjamin Kwakye won the 1999 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa with his first novel, The Clothes of Nakedness. He repeated this feat and won the award again in 2006 with his second novel The Sun by Night. Not bad, eh?
10. Akosua Busia, Age 49
Better known as an actress in The Colour Purple, Akosua is also quite the accomplished writer. She wrote the screenplay for the movie version of the Pulitzer-winning novel Beloved. She wrote The Seasons of Beento Blackbird: A Novel , published by Washington Square Press in 1997. She is, of course, the daughter of Ghana’s past Head of State Kofi Abrefa Busia.