Read Your Way Through Accra

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Nii Ayikwei Parkes’s “Tail of the Blue Bird” brings the city to life. This slim novel is set in Accra and Sonokrom, a small village. Kayo, a forensic pathologist working in Accra, has been forced by a high-ranking police officer to investigate a sinister discovery in the village.

The novel’s lyrical prose and rich dialogue, which incorporates Ghanaian words and phrases, make it delightful to read. Through Kayo’s work, outings with friends and encounters with the police, we see different aspects of life in Accra, while his time in Sonokrom and interactions with the village’s intriguing inhabitants offer a glimpse of how people outside the center relate to the city.

If you prefer nonfiction, Ato Quayson’s “Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism” offers an excellent introduction to the city. It takes the reader on a journey through Accra’s history, showing its evolution from a fishing village to a port town during British colonial rule, to a vibrant metropolis that draws in people from around the country and the world. With Oxford Street, a bustling commercial corridor, as a starting point, Quayson evokes the sights and sounds of the city with keen attention to how people interact with each other and their surroundings. Forays into the salsa and gym scenes underline the transnational dimensions of life in Accra.

Accra is at the heart of Yepoka Yeebo’s “Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World.” This work of nonfiction is a wild ride about one of the boldest scams of the 1970s and ‘80s, carried out by John Ackah Blay-Miezah, a charismatic Ghanaian. Blay-Miezah promised huge returns to thousands of investors from around the world, tied to a bogus trust fund allegedly set up by Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president. While Blay-Miezah targeted victims across the world, his dealings with government officials and other businesspeople in Accra facilitated his scam and, ultimately, contributed to its end. The book is a meticulously researched and riveting account of politics and money in post-independence Ghana.

Fictional stories of murder can also be doorways into Accra. In “Sleep Well My Lady,” by Kwei Quartey, a female detective’s investigation of a murder offers a glimpse into the lives of the rich and the not-so-rich of the city. In Kobby Ben Ben’s “No One Dies Yet,” Accra is the scene of mystery and sex, in a meeting of Ghana and its diaspora.

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