Book Review: Tales from Different Tails – by Dr Frankie Asare-Donkoh
Author: Nana Awere Damoah
Available: All leading bookshops
Review by: Dr Frankie Asare-Donkoh
The rhyming title of this book does not disappoint the reader as the book has a long tail of tales that keeps the reader in different moods – sadness, laughter, confusion and in suspense. As a young man growing up in a rural community, books by great authors like Ama Atta Aidoo, Chinua Achibe, Atukwei Okai, Ayikwei Armah and others were my immediate companions as they led me to understand the use of language, especially spicing sentences with African proverbs.
Then there was the famous Baffour column in the then Weekly Spectator (now The Spectator) written by my very senior colleague, the witty and humorous writer, Willie Donkor, who enlivened my interest in reading.
With the Ama Aidoos, the Atukwei Okais and Chinua Achibes gradually fading away through natural progression of humans, one wonders in whose hands they are leaving readers of African-centred and authored novels. However, with young authors like Nana Awere Damoah emerging unto the scene carrying the trademarks of our revered and cherished authors named above, one is confident that the African story-telling tradition is being sustained.
Usually, one would not expect chemical engineers to have much interest in novel writing, to an extent of coming out with world-class novels. But Awere Damoah, a Chemical Engineer with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Nottingham, UK, proves such views wrong with his own style of exciting, inciting and invigorating story- telling in the traditional African way.
Author of two previous books, Excursions in My Mind (2008) and Through the Gates of Thought (2010), Awere Damoah indeed shows that he indeed has a long tail of tales to share with his readers. His third and current book, Tales from Different tails, takes readers through some of the everyday life situations most people go through in Ghana and other parts of Africa.
The book’s opening chapter, ‘October Rush’ set at the campus of the KNUST, Kumasi, brings long-held memories by many who were privileged to be boarding students in secondary schools and tertiary institutions. It’s a mixture of religiosity and secularity, a situation very common in most university and college campuses where the most religious and non-adherents struggle to win each other over. It’s also about a love encounter between people who in their inner parts had fallen for one another of the opposite sex but cannot show their true inner feelings because they operate behind the curtains of the Scriptures Union (SU), which sometimes bluntly considers even the mere talk about ‘love and romance’ as sin.
‘October Rush’ thus keeps the reader captivated right from the beginning to the end and would not make one put the book down. Perhaps, what might intrigue a lot of readers of this book who know the religious background of Nana Awere Damoah, and his deep involvement in the SU, is how he classically categorises the girls on campus into ‘New Stock’ (freshers), ‘Reduced to Clear’ (sophomores), and ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ (final years), indicating how ‘fresh’ or ‘expired’ a girl could be depending on the length of her ‘operations’ on campus. The suspense in this opening chapter is superb.
The other chapters of the book are cleverly shared to cover different life experiences which many of us go through. They range from pure and unadulterated love to unbelievable betrayal of friendship and loyalty. ‘Truth Floats’, ‘Dribble Zagidibodidi’ and ‘Hope Undeferred’ (Chapters 2, 3 and 4) clearly display different levels of love, loyalty and jealousy and how sometimes jealousy could drive some people to send their friends to jail in order to have their girlfriends, wives, husbands, properties and positions in life. The happy endings of some of these stories, particularly that of chapter three, brings out Awere Damoah’s story-telling skills.
Chapters 5 and 6, provide a lot of lessons for many a young man and woman embarking on life’s journey. Kojo Nkrabeah’s move from the village to the city to take his share of the flowing gold and wealth on the streets provides a good warning to those who are easily swayed by the sudden transformation of their friends’ poor lives without pondering over the source of their wealth. ‘Guardian of the Rented Well’ (chapter 6) is about how both men and women would trade sex to achieve their goals, and how they are eventually shamed and punished.
The ‘Trotro Palaver’ (chapter 7) captures the usual scenes within trotros (most popular transport in Ghana) and taxis where debates, gossips and all sorts of discussions take place, sometimes leading to some passengers engaging themselves in hot exchanges in favour of their preferred political parties and leaders. The chapter also reveals the behaviours of some drivers and their mates (aplanke) and how they treat passengers.
The other fascination about this book is how Nana Awere Damoah establishes himself as a good African story-teller by interspersing his narrations with proverbs, bringing my memories of Baffour and his usual antics with his numerous friends at their palm wine bars. “…the offspring of the long snake could not be short” is how Awere Damoah rebrands the old Ghanaian proverb of “Okoto nwo anoma” (a crab can’t give birth to a bird) on page 52 of the book.
In order not to let you drink your soup before the fufu is brought, all I can do is to leave you, dear reader, to enjoy the re-birth of African story-telling by going for a copy of this fascinating and easy to read book which is on sale at all leading bookshops in Ghana and also on Amazon and other internet bookshops.