CHILD OF POLYGAMY
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Paperback (248 pages)
Editorial DescriptionThis novel tells the story of the last-born daughter of a fractured polygamous family in Ghana, West Africa. She was born in the house of her maternal grand father who was the village chief. She was growing and learning the traditional life, culture and religion when her world changed at age eleven when her mother became ill suddenly. She was "forced" to spend the next four years in her father's house with her stepmother and stepsiblings. There,she was tormented, humiliated and isolated by her oldest stepsister. The book explores the young girl's attempt to cope with her tragedies while trying to understand the local traditions,customs and beliefs and how they conflicted with christian beliefs.
Reader ReviewsCaptivating - A Must Read
I have just finished reading this book. It's a masterpiece, very well written and captivating from beginning to end. The narrative is beautiful and portrays the Ghanaian culture and legend so vividly. Child of Polygamy is going to be a hit - a best seller. It's as good as (if not better than) the best of the popular African Writers series. In fact, it is a must read for all who are curious to learn something about African legend and culture the easy way. I truly enjoyed reading it - the first book I have read for some time now from cover to cover without sleeping it out. Its a great book!
An Excellent Look Into Ghanaian Culture
Set in the Volta Region of Ghana, Pediatrician Kosi J. Avotri and his wife Nella P. Avotri's novel, Child of Pologamy makes excellent use of loosely linked tales to help us better understand the mores, customs and traditions of Ghanaians living in this corner of the globe.
Each chapter of the novel focuses on different aspects of daily life in a tiny village as experienced and narrated by three principal characters: Mina, one of the wives of a polygamist relationship, her father Mededu and her daughter, Safia.
The novel opens with the application of customary law pertaining to the trial of Mededu, chief of the town of Sakuma.
Accused of a criminal act by his rival Ketor, first in line to become chief, if Mededu's rule is ended, the latter is required to place his dominant hand in a pot of boiling palm oil to prove his innocence. If guilty, he would suffer horrible burns or even death. Fortunately, Mededu is found innocent and his accuser is required to pay a fine for a false accusation.
The tricky relationship between Mina and Mededu are particularly intriguing, as it pertains to the pros and cons of conversion to Christianity. Mina fails to understand why her father is inflexible in not wishing to follow her lead and why he desires to maintain his traditional religion, worshipping the guardian spirits and ancestors. Mededu maintains that if he did convert the grandfathers would not be pleased, and to support his argument he relates an experience he had when he was saved by the ancestors.
The practice of polygamy that is governed by classical or customary law is explored and examined with great sensitivity.
This is prevalent in the conversation between Safia and her brother Seyo, when the former questions the latter as to how their father could live with two wives. According to Seyo, the arrangement is quite simple, "he spent one week with one wife and the next week with the other." When Safia questions her mother why she married Papa, when she knew he already had a wife, Mina reply is "it is common for a man to marry more than one woman if he is capable of taking care of them."
The authors tackle other difficult issues such as the treatment of mental illness, incest, the acceptance of the Catholic Church of polygamous families, while at the same time preventing them from fully participating, suicide, education, relations among siblings of a polygamous marriage, and taboos.
This is a compelling book that never gets strident, as the authors admirably succeed in laying out the information clearly and concisely pertaining to many serious topics dealing with Ghanaian culture that to most of us are foreign, and perhaps even mind boggling to some.
Norm Goldman Editor Bookpleasures
intriguing look at folklore, history, spirituality, and culture of West Africa from the perspective of a young African girl torn from her home after her mother succumbs to mental illness, a smooth read, enjoyable and engrossing
Life in another country
Safia is the youngest daughter of Mina and Afreti of Ghana. Afreti has another wife, Winnie, who also has several children. Mina has to return to her father's house after her mother's death to help take care of him. Her father, Mededu, is the chief of his village and a very important man. Safia has a very pleasant childhood, doing well in school and at home with her mother and older siblings. Then one day, Mina, after attempting to convert her father to Christianity, destroys his shrine. He did not convert to Christianity but Mina lost her mind and was confined to an institution a good ways from the village. Safia, just at the beginning of puberty, is forced to go live with her father and her stepmother Winnie. Her stepmother is not too bad, but the oldest daughter hates Mina and all her children. Vena feels that since Mina was the second wife, she stole her father from her mother. Safia's life begins to go downhill from there.
CHILD OF POLYGAMY by Kosi and Nella Avotri gives us a look into another culture during the 1960s and 70s. It is fascinating in that life in Ghana at that time is so different than what we are used to seeing and reading about. It is a lovely story that explains the closeness of families and of villages and even of a country. The only mild distraction was that of the editing. Tenses changed in strange places and some words didn't quite fit. It is still a book worth picking up.
Reviewed by Alice Holman
of The RAWSISTAZâ„¢ Reviewers
Ghana in the 60s and 70s
Reviewed by Deb Shunamon for Reader Views (8/06)
Ghana in the 1960s and '70s. This is not a country, a time, or a way of life that most readers will know much about. "Child of Polygamy" relates the many interesting, fictional stories of Safia, her extended family, and her community, and how they react to and initiate change in their lives. The novel starts off with Safia's memory of a potentially deadly situation involving her grandfather Mededu, the town's Chief. The reader is presented with an interesting story of the traditional way of handling things then is immediately exposed to the ever-present theme of change as we learn that this very likeable character is constantly under siege by Safia's mother to convert to Christianity. As Safia grows, her personal tragedies and triumphs are told alongside those of many other characters and situations resulting in a book packed full of interesting vignettes. An interesting fictional story, it's also a sociological comment on a small town in Ghana, and is written with as much detail as an anthropological text.
It's also a lovely, professional looking book both inside and out. From its topics of societal ethics and the price of unacceptable behaviour, to the more mundane ones of schooling, spanking, and what's being made for supper, a lot is covered with its very relaxed pace of writing. Lovely language such as "...a long hug, one that expressed the fulfillment of a need for human touch more than just greetings..." help to keep the novel grounded as a piece of fiction. Occasional tense changes and switches in the style of writing interrupt some of the flow, with emotional situations often being followed by long descriptive passages or chapters before returning to the story, but I was kept continually curious about what was going to happen to Safia next, right up to the extremely satisfying ending.
To many North American readers, the title will seem a bit risque, but anything scandalous has been kept to the end of the novel where an explanation of polygamous marriage arrangements are given a matter of fact, rational explanation revealing the normalcy of it in this society. If there's any darker excitement to be had it's in a chapter involving incest. I'm not entirely sure why this universal taboo was included as the book seems to generally present daily or reoccurring situations, but the episode is handled thoughtfully and its consequences used to support a different situation and the collective demand for change.
Most readers would be hard-pressed to point out Ghana on a map without some thought, and I believe even more would know little of its history or present day situation. This book will leave the reader surprised at how much knowledge they have gained about this one group of African people, and more importantly, it shows how little effort is made in North America to present the everyday lives of Africans to us. Although the information in "Child of Polygamy" is now thirty years old, there is clearly much more for us to be told about the countries and peoples of Africa than what our newscasts present, and our schools neglect to teach.