A Short Story for Ghana Lit Week

The Prophet of Zongo Street

Kinna over at Kinna Reads is hosting Ghanaian Literature Week, and the list of #GhanaLit posts keeps growing. Kinna was kind enough to send me a couple links to Ghanaian short stories, as I had trouble locating anything in print in my area.

Last night I read “Mallam Sile,” a short story by Mohammed Naseehu Ali, which was published in The New Yorker back in 2005. As I read it, I realized I’d read this before, although  I couldn’t tell you when. I thought it was a charming story the first time through, and thought so again upon a reread.

The title character, Mallam Sile, is a tea seller on Zongo Street, a fictional community in Accra, Ghana. He’s from the northern part of the country, and is treated rather roughly and unkindly as an outsider. His customers have no interest in engaging him in conversation. Eventually,

The tea seller learned to swallow his words, and eventually spoke only when he was engaged in a transaction with a customer. But nothing said or even whispered in the shop escaped his sharp ears.

He’s an astute, successful business owner, but he’s lonely. It seems that he’s resigned himself to perpetual bachelorhood, until one day he makes a drastic change and finds a wife. Abeeba enhances his life in ways that he never expected – or did he? He may seem naive, but his actions have shown otherwise.
I enjoyed the realistic characterizations and the playful treatment of gender roles. I ‘d like to read more from Ali, especially if he continues along these themes. This story is part of his collection The Prophet of Zongo Street. Short story collections can sometimes be hit or miss, but if even a few are as good as “Mallam Sile,” I’d consider the book a success.

Order The Prophet of Zongo Street from an Indie bookstore near you. (Affiliate link: ie, I will earn pennies if you buy this.)

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3 thoughts on “A Short Story for Ghana Lit Week

  1. I definitely recommend the full collection of short stories if you get a chance to read it – I really enjoyed it and found it on the kindle store last year.Glad to hear you enjoyed this story!

  2. I second Amy's suggestion about the collection of short stories. Mohammmed is a relatively new author and I look forward to reading more of his stuff. Thanks for the review and for participating in Ghana Lit Week.

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