A short novel and a collection of poems deal with the subjects of peer pressure and bullying.
Selom, a 16-year-old from Ghana, comes to New York to attend high school. Her public school is diverse—“Caribbean, Africans, Black Americans, Indians”—and yet the culture shock requires some adjustments. Even more difficult to navigate are the social hazards of being a teenager: getting called ugly in the cafeteria, getting asked out by a boy via his friend. Her home life is crowded—she and her sisters are forced to share a bed in her uncle’s house. At school, she faces a constant barrage of boys telling her how much they like her. She attempts to hunker down and focus on her work while also pursuing creative writing on the side, but the constant male attention at school threatens the American education that Selom and her family have worked so hard, and sacrificed so much, to attain. The text concludes with a collection of 17 poems, most of which deal with themes of teenage alienation and loneliness, such as “Sometimes”: “Sometimes, / I walk alone, / And think alone, / But no one knows, / I am alone.” Dzissah (A World of Beautiful Colors, 2015, etc.) admits in her introduction that this book is a revised version of an earlier volume, The Westerners (2005), and there is a hodgepodge quality to this work that is more confusing than it is cohesive. The novel shifts tense several times over the course of the narrative, and the characters feel less like people than names that come in and out of Selom’s classrooms. The poems are thematically linked to the novel (more or less), but they don’t come together to make a satisfying whole. An interstitial chapter about bullying reads like an attempt to use these disparate works to make a larger point, and while the attention paid to the subject is worthwhile, the book remains mostly amorphous and ultimately insubstantial.
A meandering volume of poetry and prose that focuses on a teenager from Ghana and school issues.