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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Watch American Idol or Start Book #3?

Forgive the February silence. It's been a crazy busy couple of weeks, but I am PSYCHED, RELIEVED, and ELATED to report I've finished my second novel. Now I'm in begging mode, foisting the manscript on a select sample group of kind souls who've agreed to read the thing and help me carve out the bits that don't need to be there anymore.

It's strange being finished. For the last three and a half years, I've traveled everywhere with my laptop, taking an hourlong bus ride to work (rather than a 35 minute train commute), and stealing what moments before work I could at the library so I could write uninterrupted for a blip of time. And now the community I've built (the bus drivers, the security guards who checked my bag on the way in and out of the library, the homeless people who rest up in the warmth and safety of the library...) is no longer part of my morning routine. I can sleep a little later, and read books again; watch every single American Idol audition episode as well as all of my other reality TV favorites without guilt.

Anyway, I was propelled to write today because it's Ghana's 55th Anniversary of Independence from British colonial rule (at least it was a few hours ago), and today the date coincided with Super Tuesday. The convergence of these momentous government-related events has me thinking about what you should do with Independence when you have it. What exactly is the responsibility of Independence?

Now that I've finished my second book, I wonder: should I be taking a mini-break -- or should I pound out the projects in my head, giving voice to the cast of characters alternately singing and soliloquizing in my mind? What about watching all of my DVR'd episode of '80's cartoon Jem and the Holograms? How mini is "mini"? Can I even afford a break at this stage of my career as an author?

My guess is that these are the questions you have in the rudimentary stages of Independence. I've been "independent" from writing Book #2 for 22 days now. Ghana has been Independent for 55 years; America for 236 years. The hope of course is that as my count of years progresses, I'll have figured out those answers for myself and moved on to new questions.

As a Ghanaian, I'm often a witness or participant in conversations about Ghana's level of progress since its globally celebrated Independence in 1957. What has the nation done with Independence? In my new book, I grappled with the question. As the first sub-Saharan African nation to wrestle Independence from the colonizer, Ghana was a benchmark for its neighbors and other colonies around the world, as 17 African nations became Independent three short years later.

But the growing pains of Independence quickly surfaced as euphoria devolved into disillusionment with internal and external forces creating a volatile climate of violence and paranoia that ultimately led to the coup of 1966 that ousted Nkrumah. Four more (successful) coups followed making 1992 (the year I was in Form Four at Mfantsiman Girls' Secondary School in Ghana) the first time Ghana had undergone a democratic election since 1981. Ghana continues to be held up as an example in Africa as we've had three peaceful exchanges of power since the 1992 elections, and the discovery of oil could translate into the chance to improve the economy for all. But again, as we have this chance at financial Independence, what is the best course to take?

I also look at America and what it has done with Independence. Over two hundred years after Washington wrestled independence from the ubiquitous Brits, what has it done? Like its former colonizer, it set about creating colonies or commonwealths of its own, even as it built itself on the backs of forced and indentured labor. Is Independence, once won, about encroaching on the Independence of others? Is that the only way to be successful?

I come back to: what is the responsibility of Independence? As an independent, Christian, Ghanaian-American woman, what am I supposed to be doing? What is my real responsibility to my faith, my family, my countries, myself? I guess the point of Independence is I have the freedom to turn these questions over in my mind, and the liberty to seek out the answers. There will inevitably be missteps and growing pains. That's just part of Independence. Ironically, dependence is part of Independence too, as we need the wisdom, lessons, and mentoring of those who have gone before us to partially inform our own success.

Anyhoo, I continue to muse on the above. Happy Ghanaian Independence Day, people!