8 Books About Ghanaians in the Diaspora

Peace Adzo Medie, author of "Nightbloom," recommends books about Ghanaians abroad navigating life's challenges

A woman with the Ghanaian flag painted on her cheek looks off to the side
Photo by Oswald Elsaboath via Unsplash

There is a long history of Ghanaians leaving home to settle elsewhere, often in other countries on the continent, and sometimes, further away. And while some leave with no intention of coming back, for many Ghanaians, the country remains home, even after they’ve acquired new citizenship.

But in Nightbloom, my new novel, we meet Akorfa who is not so keen to maintain these ties with her home country. Akorfa and Selasi are best friends who have drifted apart, with Akorfa, who comes from a middle-class family, leaving to study medicine in the United States. I explore how class plays a role in the rift between the friends, and how it complicates Akorfa’s life when she arrives in the United States. Used to being held to high standards, she’s suddenly confronted with a reality in which expectations for her are low because of the color of her skin and the backward assumptions about Ghana and Africa. Yet, she continues to believe in the American dream. Ultimately, Nightbloom is about the struggles of a young woman trying to make a life for herself in an imperfect country that isn’t always welcoming. 

Below are eight books about Ghanians living abroad that show there isn’t one catch-all migrant experience.

Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo

Sissie is a Ghanaian woman on a state-sponsored trip to Germany. In prose, punctuated by verse, we get to see Europe through our protagonist’s eye. Not only is Sissie not easily impressed, but she is insightful in her analysis of the Ghanaians she meets in her travels: the students who are quick to reject Africa as inferior while embracing the West and the workers who are enduring racism to eke out a meager living. In this classic of Ghanaian literature, Ama Ata Aidoo subverts the stereotype of the African migrant who is grateful to leave and happy to sit quietly in that gratitude. 

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu

In this memoir, Owusu, the daughter of an Armenian American mother and Ghanaian father, describes a life characterised by movement across borders and by personal traumas. Moving between Rome, Dar-es-Salaam, Addis Ababa, Kumasi, Kampala and London, Owusu recounts her nomadic childhood reckoning with an absent mother and a father who dies young. As an adult in New York, a family secret revealed by her stepmother shakes her very foundation as she grapples with the idea of “home” and the search for belonging. 

Anansi’s Gold by Yepoka Yeebo

In this true crime book, Yeebo writes about John Ackah Blay Meziah, a rags-to-riches Ghanaian swindler whose con was based on a lore: Ghana’s wealth was held in Swiss banks, siphoned away by the first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Blay Meziah persuaded thousands of people that he had the key to these accounts worth billions in gold and they too could have a slice of these riches through a rare “investment” opportunity. 

This stranger-than-fiction story begins in prison where he’s already behind bars for…wait for it…committing fraud. Through sheer charisma, tenacity and a lack of fear, he manages to secure a meeting, behind bars, with head of state, Ignatuis Kutu Acheampong. Not only does Blay-Meziah talk his way into his release, but his coup de grâce is a diplomatic passport that enables him to cross borders and evade capture from the FBI for decades. British Ghanaian journalist Yepoka Yeebo recounts a thrilling and fast-paced story about one of history’s most successful cons, but at its core, her writing illuminates the culpability of the West in undermining progress in a newly independent country.  

Zainab Takes New York by Ayesha Harruna Attah

In this romantic comedy, Zainab, a Ghanaian student, moves to New York City to pursue her dreams of being an illustrator, make money, and lose her virginity: “Because what was the point of coming to this city of hot men if I wasn’t going to tangle legs sooner or later?” 

What she didn’t bank on are her grandmothers following her across oceans and whispering in her ear. Did I mention her grandmothers are dead? 

Bad Love by Maame Blue

Ekuah is a young British-Ghanaian woman searching for “good love”, but ends up in intense, but messy situationships. Ekuah’s first romance is with the hot and cold musician Dee who ghosts her after eighteen chaotic months together and leaves her absolutely heartbroken. When Ekuah and Dee cross paths years later, Ekuah must make a choice. Set in London, Accra, and Venice, Bad Love paints a vibrant picture of a woman yearning for love and to be loved. 

What Napoleon Could Not Do by DK Nnuro

Nnuro’s book is about striving to migrate to the United States and the search for acceptance once there. He introduces us to Jacob and Belinda Nti, Ghanaian siblings, and Belinda’s husband, Wilder. While Belinda succeeds in going to the US, she struggles to get a green card. Meanwhile her brother has yet to make it. Nnuro’s book asks us to reflect on the idea of the successful immigrant.

Daughter in Exile by Bisi Adjapon

Lola, a young Ghanaian woman, has a full life in Senegal: a university degree, great friends, and a job at the embassy. She leaves behind her comfortable and upwardly mobile path in Dakar for New York after falling in love with Armand, a U.S. marine and becoming pregnant. Lola’s hopes for a future of love and happiness are dashed when Armand abandons her and their newborn. She spends the next 20 years enduring and overcoming endless adversity as an undocumented single mother, staying resilient and preserving as a looming immigration court date will determine her fate of legalization or deportation.  

Maame by Jessica George

This coming-of-age story centers Maddie, a Londoner struggling to care for her Ghanaian father, who is declining from Parkinson’s: “We grow up fast. Not by force, but because we are needed. I think sometimes we’re needed for the wrong reasons.” Forced into maturity by the weight of duty, Maddie doesn’t have the opportunity to live the frivolous, self-centered existence that is the rite-of-passage of most 25-year-olds trying to find their identity and place in the world. Until tragedy strikes and “The New Maddie” is thrust into independence: living with roommates, navigating her first romance and a new job at a publishing house. A novel firmly set in the digital age, George weaves emails, Reddit threads, and Google searches into the page to create a portrait of a young Black woman torn between her duty to her family and her desire for personal fulfillment. 

More Like This

8 Memoirs by Women About Multicultural Identity and Belonging

Sorayya Khan, author of "We Take Our Cities with Us: A Memoir," recommends books that cross cultures and borders

Jan 4 - Sorayya Khan

Seeing My Filipino Immigrant Self in Ellison’s “Invisible Man”

I wanted to learn about Black oppression, only to discover my own erasure

Sep 28 - Cindy Fazzi

A Rwandan-Namibian Millennial Tries to Find Himself in Cape Town

Rémy Ngamije, author of "The Eternal Audience of One," on the literary scene in Namibia and writing a novel about immigrant life in Africa

Sep 2 - Frances Yackel
Thank You!