It is in the American Centre at his secondary school that Jojo Badu first considers pursuing his postsecondary education in the United States. His original plan was to attend the University of Ghana but with encouragement from the American Centre, he applies and is accepted to The University, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts. In the Summer of 1963 he leaves Ghana with the plan of obtaining an Economics degree and returning home to become a leader at a bank, another corporation or in the government as encouraged by his Uncle Kusi.
The novel starts with an older Jojo as he is reflecting on his life, more specifically his decision to come to and stay in America:
What if I’d stayed in Ghana, land of my birth, embodiment of my past? What if I had gone to Ghana Law School, married a Ghanaian woman, bred children who spoke Asante and swam in the same waters as I, recognised the same landmarks as I did and my forebears before me? What if I’d established my practice there; aged without the sense of abandonment rattling as chains on my heels and canvassed perhaps for a political office or two?
Within the first few pages, the tone is set for a pensive story about a Ghanaian man traveling to the U.S. in a time when no country seemed to be without some sort of political unrest. Ghana is 6 years out of British colonial rule but heading towards decades of political and economic instability and the U.S. is nearing the end of the official Jim Crow era and in the midst of the Vietnam War. At The University Jojo meets 3 men who play a large role in his new life: Dwayne, a race-conscious and politically active black American student; Ed, Jojo’s first roommate is a rich kid who spends his college years fighting “the man” and trying to sleep with as many “chicks” as he can; and John, a racist white student who writes for an unsanctioned campus newspaper that has a conservative slant. Through his relationships with these three men (and other students) we see Jojo acclimate to U.S. racial tensions, experience foreign-ness amongst other black people, and deal with the basic realities of being a college student — studying, partying, dating.
As a child of two parents who both emigrated from Ghana to the United States for education in the same way that Jojo does, I appreciate this story. However there were some chronological inconsistencies towards the end of the novel and I wish Jojo had shared more about his long distance interactions with his family. Still yet, The Other Crucifix is a book I have already recommended to others.
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