The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah [A Book Review] for January Theme: Minority Struggles.
One of the most graphic descriptions of personal disappointment, poverty and struggle that I have read. The author Ayi Kwei Armah pens the story of a man’s [name never mentioned] interpretation of living in Ghana after Independence. The narrator’s tale is compelling and coarse at times but that made it more engaging and demanding me to read more. Although some aspects of the description were gross, they were a reality that I understood and once lived. Cutting that detail from the story would be taking out the essence of a painstakingly quest for the man to keep toiling and to keep his family alive.
In a time when corruption run supreme in Ghana, there is a man fighting to earn an honest living working in a railway office. He takes the reader with him as he prepares for work and his journey using public transportation to and from work. The opening scene is funny with the interaction between the man and the conductor of the bus. Although he strives in honesty the man is surrounded by people who use bribery and theft simply to survive or prosper. Even his wife mocks him for his honesty and I felt that inner war raging within him to stay true or accept more on the side so his children could get more to eat. Then come Minister Koomson and his wife, who Oyo (the man’s wife) wishes to live their grand life. In addition, he has to contend with Oyo’s mother belittling his ability to provide for his family and to act like a man. She too has starry eyes for the life of the Minister and his wife.
The narrator’s take on corruption mirror the lifestyle of many government ministers in the book’s Ghana. There are many instances where I feel the man is mocking and ridiculing the men of Ghana who claimed rule from the white man but turn around and act in the same way of the white man. Ghana is still ruled by the élite who replaced another élite. The people who helped placed them receives favour but the masses are still hungry, forced to steal/kill a man for his pennies. The man seemed like an anomaly against the same old system. The officials replace traditional Ghana with the language and practices of Western culture but the country does not prosper.
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is unpretentious and direct. A necessary direct. A story that leaves me more hungry for the wish to see minorities especially blacks open their eyes to the system that they fight against yet emulate every negative.