22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Taiye Selasi

Portrait Taiye Selasi
© Hartwig Klappert

Taiye Selasi was born in London in 1979 and grew up in Brookline, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. She is the daughter of a Nigerian-Scottish paediatrician also known for her commitment to children’s rights, and a surgeon from Ghana who has also written several well-known volumes of poetry. Selasi gained a Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude in American Studies at Yale University and went on to gain her Master’s in International Relations at Nuffield College in Oxford. She became acquainted with Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison during her studies, who inspired her to write prose, setting Selasi a deadline for delivering the finished text to her. The result was the short story »The Sex Lives of African Girls«, which was published in summer 2011 by the renowned literary magazine »Granta« in an edition dedicated to feminism, and later in the anthology »The Best American Short Stories 2012«. In the meantime, she had started work on her first novel »Ghana Must Go« (2013), and was immediately signed by renowned New York literary agent Andrew Wylie. In the novel, she tells the disturbing story of a family, proceeding from the death of the father, »an unusual surgeon«, who already dies on the first few pages of a »usual heart attack«, looking back at his life in those last few moments. Selasi’s literary debut can be seen as a fictitious and at the same time autobiographically influenced revision of Selasi’s well-received essay »Bye-Bye Babar« (2005). It was in this work that she first coined the phrase »Afropolitan« to describe the most recent and youngest generation of African and cosmopolitan immigrants who, when asked about their origins cannot give a simple answer. »Ghana Must Go« has already been translated into more than a dozen languages and was received with enthusiasm both by critics and fellow writers alike. Teju Cole (guest at ilb 2012), who last year released »Open City«, a similarly impressive debut novel that also provides a definition of »Afropolitan«, has said: »With her perfect-pitched prose and flawless technique, Selasi does more than merely renew our sense of the African novel: she renews our sense of the novel, period.«

»Granta« placed Selasi on its list – published every ten years – of »Britain’s best young novelists«, the earliest versions of which contained names like Martin Amis, A. L. Kennedy, Kazuo Ishiguro or Zadie Smith. In 2012, Selasi initiated the multimedia project »2154« with the aim of portraying young people in all 54 African countries in photo and film. She is also already working on her second novel. Selasi lives in Rome.