Taiye Selasi is an American writer and photographer. Selasi is best known for her debut novel Ghana Must Go (2013), which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and was critically acclaimed.
Taiye Selasi was born in London, England, and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. She is the elder of twin daughters born to Dr. Lade Wosornu, a Ghanaian surgeon in Saudi Arabia and a prolific poet, and Dr. Juliette Tuakli, a pediatrician in Ghana known for children's rights advocacy. Her parents separated when she was an infant, and she met her biological father at age 12.
Her name means "first twin" in Yoruba, reflecting her rich cultural heritage. Over the years, she adopted and changed surnames several times, ultimately settling on "Selasi," a word from the Ewe language, which she translated as "answered prayer" or "God has heard."
Taiye Selasi graduated summa cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies and received her M.A. in International Relations from Oxford University.
Selasi is renowned for her influential essay, Bye-Bye, Babar (Or: What is an Afropolitan?), published in The LIP Magazine in 2005. In this essay, she introduced the concept of Afropolitanism, describing a new African diaspora that embraces its diversity and resists oversimplification. While she did not claim to coin the term, her work sparked a conversation that led to its recognition and development by scholars.
Selasi's literary achievements include the short story The Sex Lives of African Girls, published in Granta in 2011 and featured in Best American Short Stories 2012. Her novel Ghana Must Go was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.
The novel follows the Sai family as they process the death of their father, Kweku Sai, and deal with family problems. Multiple points of view provide insight into the emotions of the characters and the consequences of Kweku's choices.
Ghana must go is also a renowned phrase in Ghana and Nigeria. It goes back in history when Ghanaians were deported from Nigeria by presidential decree, in 1983.
She has been recognized as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Writers and was named to the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers under 40.
In addition to her writing, Taiye Selasi has collaborated with various artists, including architect David Adjaye, on projects such as the Gwangju River Reading Room. She is also the Executive Producer of the documentary series Afripedia and is involved in developing the feature documentary Exodus about global migration.
Selasi challenges the tendency of publishers to pigeonhole African writers and emphasizes her identification with localities rather than countries, having lived in various cities worldwide, including New York, Berlin, Rome, Lisbon, and Accra.
She has made notable contributions to the literary world, including her participation as a Featured Author at the Iceland Writers Retreat and her inclusion in the anthology New Daughters of Africa (2019).
Taiye Selasi's diverse body of work extends to children's literature, with the publication of Anansi and the Golden Pot in 2022, a book she wrote for her son Safa. Her dynamic career continues to influence and shape contemporary literature while celebrating the complexities of identity and heritage.
Photo credit: Nancy Crampton