Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy is her debut novel and was first published in 1977; it is also entitled Reflections from a Black-eyed Squint. The text depicts the thoughts and encounters of Sissie, a Ghanaian student who travels to Europe on scholarship. With focus on the interaction between the African and European cultures on the latter’s soil, the young Ghanaian protagonist, Sissie evaluates what Europe is and does to the Africans whom it sponsors and educates. It can be considered as an inversion of the colonial travel narrative which addresses the asymmetrical power relations between Europe and Africa.
The novel revolves around themes such as black diaspora and colonisation of the mind. A number of Africans vehemently believe that their lives would automatically change for the better once they travel to Europe. This positioning began in African and is reinforced by African migration to Europe. The text highlights the fact that some Africans who are either sojourning in Europe or staying there permanently for education and the desire for a better life have been brainwashed with the traditions and thoughts of the coloniser, leaving them with no desire for their indigenous culture. After colonisation, African countries were left with European institutions and ideologies of which they continue to function within post-independence. However, it is not all sunshine and rainbow for Africans living in Europe as Sissie moves to England later in the novel and is astounded by their ‘wretched living conditions’. Sissie is an African woman who is unshaken by societal limitations. She gives herself the responsibility of exposing the harsh realities of Africans who internalise Western ideologies and liken Europe to a ‘heaven’ and in process, forsake their home countries to ‘rot’.
The book switches between two voices and is split into four sections. Some aspects of the text is structured as poetic verses and sometimes interrupt the prosaic portions. The significance of this is to allow the plot to unravel larghetto, providing an opportunity for the reader to comprehend the pertinent themes better and make sense of Sissie’s inner thoughts. Additionally, it reflects a sense of tension that can be seen in how Sissie feels during her time in Europe.
With Aidoo being one of the postcolonial writers who have amplified their voices on the histories of their nations being affected by the imperial politics of colonisers, she cautions both African leaders and citizens about the brain drain occurring in Africa, where intelligent and skilled people leave to chase careers in Europe and never return to help build their home countries. The process of brain drain as an impediment to national development is a serious issue and must be tackled as such.