Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"The Sex Lives of African Girls" by Taiye Selasi (2012)

I first became aware of Taiye Selasi when Judith Mok mentioned her in a Q and A Session as someone she was currently reading.  I was very happy to find that her very first work of fiction, "The Sex Lives of African Girls" was included in a book I have, The Best American Short Stories 2012.  (It was first published in Granta in 2011.)

"The Sex Life of African Girls" by Taiye Selasi is set in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, in the grand home of a very rich man, the uncle of the central character.  The opening sentence of the story is "The sex lives of African girls begin, inevitably, with Uncle".  This is a very sensuously rich story, one can feel the heat, the rain, taste the fruit and visualize the women and men in the story.  I hate to tell to much about this work as it is beautiful and at the same time a heartbreaking tale of cruelty and the power of the rich in a very poor place.

The story opens on a party.  The central character lives with her Aunt and Uncle.  We get a vivid picture of life at the house, we feel the many class markers prevalent in the society.  There is a heavy rain for a few minutes.  The rich African women are like "Japanese giesha in wax-batik geles, their skin bleached too light. They are strange to you, strange to the landscape of the dark, with the same polished skill-set of rich women worldwide:  how to smile with full lips while the eyes remain empty;  how to hate with indifference; how to love without heat".  

As the story goes on we learn more about the central figure, how she came to live at her uncle's house, what goes behind closed doors or sometimes in rooms where the door should have been closed but was left open.    We how people are exploited, why the poor sometimes hate the poor more than the rich.   It is very much about the loss of innocence without being at all cliched.   

There is really a lot in this story.  I totally enjoyed reading it

You can learn more about the author's work on her webpage

Mel u

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