"What do you do when people, free to choose, choose what they want??" -Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
I think I felt the book more than anything else, and that affinity made me appreciate it more than many other texts I'd studied. This one got me.
It's main character, the man (yes, the man - he remains nameless) experiences life in corrupt post-colonial Ghana under Nkrumah's rule. Different aspects of the man's life are affected by the corrupt politics that pervades his society: work, school, church... everywhere! (Sounds familiar?)
The book gives an allegory of people who lived in a cave and thought that was all there was to the world. Then one day, some of these people ventured outside of the cave, and realised that there was a whole other world out there to be explored. They went back to the cave and tried to explain this other world to their friends. But their friends refused to believe it. They refused to listen, and chose to remain the cave. Then Armah pops the question: What do you do? What do you do when people, free to choose, choose what they want?
Those words haunted me. I started to apply them to everything. And that was around the same time we studied Toni Morrison's 'Beloved'... and we were looking at Caribbean intellectual traditions in Caribbean Studies, and all our lovely slavery history... sometimes history can be depressing. Especially black history. We've certainly come a faaar way! I never wanna go back.
So that's how Armah's book got me. And why I'll never forget it. I mean, really: What do you do? What do you do, when people, free to choose, choose what they want.... especially when they're making the wrong choices???