OK. The themes covered in this book: ancestry, colonialism, the Western eye on African arts, familial obligation, coming of age, identity, Ghanaian society and tradition. All of this made me like the idea of this story more than the reality of it.
The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim centres around Maya, a girl living in Germany with her Ghanaian parents, who she recognises as different from everyone else and each other. Although from a privileged background, Maya struggles in reconciling her African roots with her Western sensibilities. One Christmas, her charismatic, somewhat rebellious cousin Kojo (the God Child) arrives and sets her on a path to self realisation through discovery of her family’s past and royal lineage. The story moves with Maya and Kojo between Germany, England and Ghana as they grow up.
There were some things I liked- I enjoyed recognising some of the cultural references and practises. I liked the idea of exploring rich family history through story and stolen artefacts, of Maya beginning to understand what it means to fulfil obligations to ancestors. I loved her mother’s vivacious, dramatic character, and how much it contrasted with her own. It’s one of those stories where the protagonist is not the strongest character. Both Maya’s mother and Kojo are far more interesting and impactful.
Kojo was fixated on revealing the former glory in their bloodline from a such young age
I found the prose dense in places- well written in the academic sense, rather than emotive. At times, it felt like the plot wasn’t really going anywhere, just making a series of points in subtext. Also, I think the book requires you to know a bit about Ghana’s politics or societal nuances before reading.
A lot is carried on metaphors. Even the relationship between Maya and Kojo seemed to be one giant metaphor enabling the former to become conscious of the effects of empire, colonialism and native elitism in Ghana. I found it weird that Kojo was so aware and fixated on revealing the former glory in their bloodline from a such young age. I do appreciate that this may have been a facet of him being the God Child, of being chosen.
Quite a few characters are introduced and then dismissed without development as we follow Maya’s travels. Hi, best friend at secondary school, I would have liked to get to know you better! In the same vein, the passage of time isn’t always conveyed well, I was pretty surprised when Kojo’s wife and kids appeared out of nowhere!
The book suddenly picks up pace and becomes eventful in the last third of the book, I could have just read that part to be honest.
I can see why Taiye Salasi rated it highly, the writing reminds me a little bit of her’s but I loved Ghana Must Go. Why didn’t Selasi write another book? I would give her my money
Nana Oforiatta Ayim is an art historian and film maker, The God Child makes perfect sense in the context of her work. I’m actually more interested in her progress toward toward building a Cultural Encyclopaedia Of African History and also enabling Ghanians to control their own historical narrative. She has an entry in New Daughters of Africa which I am due to read next month.
Has anyone read The God Child? What did you think?
The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim published by Bloomsbury Books, 2019