Author: Ayesha Harruna Attah
Before I even started reading this book, I liked it. Talk about presentation! I didn’t know who Per Ankh publishers were before this book, but now, I love them! The thickness, the binding, the paper texture and the cover were all attractive enough to make the reading experience lovely, even aside from the words. Okay, perhaps this part won’t get other readers as excited as I got, so let’s move on to the story itself.
Right before I read this book, I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. That told a story down to three generations of a family. Now, I don’t know what kind of algorithm my randomness operates with, but Harmattan Rain also happened to follow three generations of women in a family. So I’ve had two doses of that in a very short space of time.
What I really loved was how different all three women were (grandmother in Part 1, mother in Part 2 and daughter in Part 3), and yet, very similar in some of the actions they took. The first ran away from home to escape forced marriage, the second got pregnant at 17, and the third had some pretty strange experiences in college. All three had the rebel streak in them. Ayesha Harruna Attah has great storytelling skills, and the insight into the thoughts of the characters allowed me to identify with at least a part of all three women.
My favourite was Akua Afriyie, the middle one, from Part 2. I was able to identify with her most of all. (Or at least, I wanted to.) Sometimes, I found Lizzie-Achiaa too mild, not talking a lot of action when she could or should have in Part 1. Also, in Part 3, Sugri seemed to act a lot without properly reasoning things out. Perhaps in that regard, I am more like her than Akua Afriyie, but I really don’t want to be, so leave me in my denial, thanks.
Akua Afriyie, on the other hand, is stubborn to a fault. And from the time she was six or so and declared that she wanted to be an artist, against her mother’s advice to drop it and be a doctor or an engineer instead (the everlasting argument in my life), I knew I’d love her. Of course, she did end up doing some boring office nonsense (okay, it was a newspaper so perhaps it wasn’t overly stifling) and boring political nonsense for a while. But in the end, she went back to art and painted with her experiences and actually made her dream come true! That is the part that I like. They prove that you can use all of your (bad) experiences to create beautiful work. Yes, I am an artist. Yes, I am biased towards artists. Sue me. Anyway, on the side, falling in love with a pastor accidentally is something I can totally see myself doing. I know, it’s tragic.
Of course, the way politics was woven into the storyline was both relevant to the era the author was writing from, and gave it that touch of much of the African literature I know; the kind that my born-in-1998 self probably can’t write. When I heard that Ayi Kwei Armah helped her write it, it made perfect sense to me. I actually thought of The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and its style as I read Harmattan Rain. It was also obvious that Attah did quite a lot of research as well. She did it well enough to ignite my own curiosity, just as The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born did. I pestered my parents and grandparents with questions about Ghana’s history and pressurized to get me those Kwame Nkrumah books they’d been promising me for a while now.
Speaking of roots, let’s talk about the author. Now, we all know my sentiments towards my school, debatably the best high/secondary school in Ghana. But this woman, who is now my inspiration, hope and proof of the possibility of success, seems to be deliberately neglecting to mention that she attended here as well. I won’t lie, if I hit success, I might very well do the same thing. This place hasn’t done a lot of things for me that I want to remember. If I ever do get the chance to talk to Ayesha, I would ask her the reason why, at every “About Me” section or the like, she mentions how she was educated at Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University and never mentions here. The only reason I know is that once, in passing, the HOD of English mentioned to me some one Ayesha who recently held a book launching. But I forgot all about that after the conversation. What gave her away was the launching of the fictional school in Part 2, where the speech the woman gave could have come straight out of Margaret Nkrumah/ IT Ofei’s mouth. And their offered programs were IGCSE and IB. The final strike was when she said the basketball court doubled as the auditorium. I was shaking my head at that point.
Perhaps this is entirely unrelated to Harmattan Rain, but again, it really upsets me how unknown and uncelebrated Ayesha is in this school. It’s the same problem I have had with people like Paapa, M.anifest and 100%. I have -1 levels of school spirit. And we won’t even actively celebrate alumni success, to give me some hope for the future? But if someone wins some strange Yale awards that I don’t care very much for, we’ll send schoolwide emails. Okay. When will we celebrate life achievements that are neither academic nor related to so-called prestigious institutions? And this is (partially) why this school won’t see me after June 2016.
Anyways. Harmattan Rain. Beautiful story, balanced and revelatory ending. I abused my highlighter on the book, so it must have been good!