The Kaya-Girl is the first young adult fiction I have read since I was a young adult (which seems a very long time ago). I often think about what young women are reading about, and how it influences their ideas of their world and their own power, but I haven’t engaged much with what’s out there at the moment.
Mamle Wolo was one of the facilitators for the AWW14 workshop in Uganda this year and was one of the people who made me really excited to visit Ghana, a country I knew hardly anything about. She is a great facilitator and a great writer, with lots of advice on technique. I was in her discussion group where we each got to write a little bit and get some feedback, and it was a wonderful experience.
I bought a copy of her award winning book (it won the Burt Award for African Literature) whilst in Uganda and it is the second book I read for this project. It tells the story of Abena and Faiza, two similar girls from two very different backgrounds. They meet whilst Abena is on school holidays and is staying with her aunty in Accra. Her aunty has a shop in the Makola market which looks like an incredible place.
Faiza is a Kaya girl, who works at the market carrying people’s purchases for them. They are from two startlingly different worlds – rich/poor, educated/uneducated, privileged/underprivileged – and yet they manage to connect on a level that goes beyond words and past experiences. I loved how Mamle captured the innocence of both of them, and how they learn so much from one another. The market itself is another character in the book, making you keenly aware of space and place. I really want to go there and see it!
One of the main things I think about when I think about writing a young adult novel is how I’ll get the ideas I want to get across without becoming didactic. The Kaya-Girl does this using such clever devices such as an internet search, a talk with a father, and the use of a love-interest to reflect back onto the main characters.
If you are a parent and you want your child to learn about privilege, love, and friendship, then I’d recommend getting this book for them. I think it would be a great book to read to your child or teen, because it would spark so much dialogue.
I really enjoyed it and it certainly made me curious to find out even more about Ghana (I am so so keen to go there) and to read more young adult novels. Mamle also writes adult novels under the name Mamle Kabu.