A young girl in 1960s and 70s Ghana struggles with a fractured, polygamous family life and powerful cultural pressures.
Safia lives with her mother, a converted Christian, and maternal grandfather, a traditional chief of his town in the Volta region. Safia attends a Christian school while her grandfather patiently informs her of local customs, drawing a distinct line between social and religious behavior. He also ably fields her many questions: What was the meaning of human sacrifice? What are taboos and what role do they play in the world? Who is considered a pagan, and why? Meanwhile, Safia’s mother continually badgers her father to accept Christianity, demanding that he explain to her the strange prohibitions that hamper women in tribal society. As Safia’s days pass, she serves as a conduit for exploring all manner of celebrations and customs in Ghana. These range from the harvest festival to the undeniable importance of rumor; the critical words of an ancient oracle to the punishments for offenses such as incest or false accusation. When her mother succumbs to mental illness, Safia is forced to live with her father and his cohabitant, Vena, who mercilessly torments the young girl. The authors, who also grew up in Ghana, capture the environment with a quiet, elemental tone that will swing readers into Safia’s corner. As she pushes on, Safia taps her resources both Christian and traditional, and eventually delivers the last, crushing word to Vena.
A genuine, inspiring story that demonstrates the importance of cultural understanding.