Preparing For My First Reading in Accra

I’ve got my shoes. MAKSI is making my dress. I have my books packed. I think I’m ready.

Almost everyone in the MOM Squad has read my debut novel, Daughters of Swallows, either in blog form or on paperback. You’re familiar with its contents. The book covers a myriad of topics, ranging from marriage, romance, sex, violence, classism, the condition of the human spirit… there’s a lot covered in 271 pages, and the hardest question to answer is: “What is this book about?” No one, including myself, has been able to succinctly answer that question.

Every writer gleans material for their craft either from personal experience or the experiences of others. Sometimes, we writers create worlds of fabricated and fantastical experiences to make our tales more engaging and/or to inspire imagination. Could there really be an alien craft submerged in the ocean that manifests your most dreaded thoughts and torments you with them? (Sphere) Could you really harvest DNA from a fossilized mosquito and breed an island populated with pre-historic reptiles? (Jurassic Park) Can little British actually kids fly on brooms for sport? (Harry Potter) Could my now grown-up daughter actually have been molested as a child? (Daughters of Swallows)

As I have been preparing for my reading in Accra next week, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about who’s going to be in the audience. It’s open to the public, so there is no predicting who is going to occupy what seat. But there is one person I know for sure is going to be there… my father.

He picked up on the forth ring.

“Hey! Abena Owusua. What do you want?”

“Hey, Daddy.” My heart was pounding. “How are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine.”

“I hear wind. Are you driving?”

“No. I’m at the beer bar with my friends.”

I chuckled and checked the time. It was 2 pm in Accra. Prime drinking time on what I was sure was a hot African day. My dad was still talking, bringing me back to the conversation and taking me away from thoughts of how much the man loves his beer.

“Do you know what? I received a threatening call and had to go to the police station to file a report,” he groused.

“Who threatened you?!”

“Some fool called me from MTN after I ported my phone to Vodafone, asking me why I made the switch,” he spat. “He said I will see what will happen to me in 24 hours. 24 hours passed two hours ago, and nothing has happened. Idiot like his type.”

“Do you know this person, Daddy?”

“No… but they will get to know me!” he thundered. “They are messing with the wrong old man!”

We both fell into a fit of giggles. My father really fancies himself to be Ghana’s Top Blow Man; a Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson of the gritty city. But time was running out on my calling card and I couldn’t indulge a conversation about how he was going “show” this fellow “where the power lies”. There was no point in stalling on the purpose of my call.

“Daddy,” I asked gingerly. “Have you read my book?”

He sucked his teeth in mock disdain.

“Ah! Every page I turn to is full of nonsense,” he chuckled. “I ask myself, how could this girl write these things? She was never an awoshia*! But it’s very interesting. I’m so glad…”

That stung a little. True, I was never an awoshia (a girl who never slept in her parent’s house because she was always sleeping at someone else’s), but I read from my father’s statement that he believed my life as a girl-child in Ghana was completely innocent and idyllic. It wasn’t.

“Yes…well…Daddy. That’s why I’m calling,” I swallowed. “There are some things that happened to me that I describe in the book. Well, they happened to the characters in the book. I don’t know if you’ve gotten to any of those parts yet.”

“No, I haven’t,” he said after a while. His voice was a bit more quiet.

I continued, wanting to rush through the conversation as quickly as I could. I told him about one of our employees who had molested me when I was 11. I reminded him of an uncle who had done the same three years before. I told him I didn’t want him to be shocked the night of the reading if I mentioned any of these events.

“Why would I be shocked? I knew all these things.”

“You did?”

My father huffed.

“I even knew when that studio radio presenter was chasing you!”

“Oh…” I’d forgotten about him. I was fifth grade. Fortunately, the guy never got close enough to touch me. I wonder now if my dad had something to do with that.

“Look, there is nothing you can say that can shock me,” he said knowingly. “In fact, when you get there, tell it. Tell it! Say it all!”

He was almost yelling his encouragement. I felt a small lump rise in my throat.

“Okay, Daddy. I will.”

“Good,” he said. I could tell he was frowning into the phone. “And when you are coming, bring my salad dressing.”


“Salad dressing…salad dressing! All types!”

“And your gin. Yes, I know.”

We snickered for a bit before saying good bye.

“Love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too. Say hello to your sister and brother for me.”




I put down my phone and squared my shoulders. If my pants weren’t so tight, I might have skipped around the room in delight. I have never been so ready for anything in my life.


It’s going down at:

Ghana Voices Series

November 27th, 7 – 8pm

Goethe Institute, Cantonments