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[#DecolonizeBookshelves2022] Our Sister Killjoy from Ghana

"My Brother, if we are not careful, we would burn out our brawn and brains trying to prove what you describe as 'our worth' and we won't get a flicker of recognition from those cold blue eyes. And anyway, who are they?" - Ama Ata Aidoo.

Myra here.


Our Sister Killjoy [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Ama Ata Aidoo Published by Longman Publishing Group (1997, first published 1977) ISBN: 0582308453 (ISBN13: 9780582308459) Bought a copy of the book. Book quotes and layout via Canva and Typorama.

This is the seventh book that I am reviewing / featuring as part of our #DecolonizeBookshelves2022 reading theme from my target list of 25 books (for this year) from This Is The Canon: Decolonize Your Bookshelf In 50 Books (Amazon | Book Depository) – and the sixth novel written by a female author.

My book log indicates that I started reading the book on May 06 and finished it on May 10.

I do believe that books find the reader at the exact right time when they are needed. Still reeling from the preliminary results of the Philippine election, I read these words and am comforted:

It is a reminder of how revolutionary hope can be – and how it is a propulsive force moving one forward instead of wallowing in despair and defeat.

Aidoo’s powerful narrative is one that begs to be read multiple times for all its layerings and complexity. I found myself reading some parts aloud to my husband because of the sting her words carry, wielded effortlessly. I found her shifts between prose and poetry so skilfully executed that I think of her as a top chef chopping up phrases, ingeniously putting words together in unexpected ways, airing them out to dry, and periodically dusting them with confectioner’s sugar to render her message more palatable to the sensitive tongue of the colonizer.

Take for example the sharpness of below’s verse on her views as to why oppression happens:

It was liberating seeing the world through Sissie’s eyes – and having her articulate sentiments that I would not be bold enough to utter out loud. The fact that she was a provincial young woman from Ghana traveling around Germany reminded me of my own time as a little brown woman traveling alone in Europe a few years back – and the unspoken solidarities women of color share when staying for a time in countries so startlingly different from their country of birth.

This shared womanity or sense of girlhood is evident in the quote above: irrespective of one’s skin color, to be female is to belong to “the ranks of the wretched.”

While there was a recognition of the power of the colonizer, there was also disdain that can be squeezed from the pages – and a quiet assurance of one’s own worth and value that had never used Whiteness as the parameter.

While this quote is often attributed to Kahlil Gibran, I loved how Aidoo usurped the idea and made it hers, with a slight nod of agreement.

What I especially found fascinating, however, is her contempt for African people who have decided to stay in “alien places” rather than return and serve in their countries of origin:

Her observation of the pitiful plight of immigrants – so different from the letters they write back home – make her wonder about the futility of staying in countries where one is not wanted or would never truly belong:

This is a book that has made me think deeply and made me wonder, too, about why the book’s packaging is so cheap and nondescript. Had it been published by bigger publishers with a more powerful book cover – this would have reached a far larger audience than it has at the moment.  Needless to say, this is a book that I will talk about for a long while to come – and would ask fellow book enthusiasts to read, read, read.


#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 50 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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