Summary and book reviews of My First Coup d'Etat by John Mahama

My First Coup d'Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

by John Mahama

My First Coup d'Etat
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2013, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

My First Coup d'Etat chronicles the coming-of-age of John Dramani Mahama in Ghana during the dismal post-independence "lost decades" of Africa. He was seven years old when rumors of a coup reached his boarding school in Accra. His father, a minister of state, was suddenly missing, then imprisoned for more than a year.

My First Coup d'Etat offers a look at the country that has long been considered Africa's success story. This is a one-of-a-kind book: Mahama's is a rare literary voice from a political leader, and his personal stories work on many levels - as fables, as history, as cultural and political analyses, and, of course, as the memoir of a young man who, unbeknownst to him or anyone else, would grow up to be vice president of his nation. Though nonfiction, these are stories that rise above their specific settings and transport the reader - much like the fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Nadine Gordimer - into a world all their own, one which straddles a time lost and explores the universal human emotions of love, fear, faith, despair, loss, longing, and hope despite all else.

OF SILENCE AND SOLIDARITY

It was with much consternation that we came to realize that the brand-new member of our class 3 group was a bona fide bully. It took a while, at least the first few weeks of the term, for that truth to come to light because initially he tried to blend in. I think it was his way of studying us, taking note of our individual constitution and our collective consciousness, so that when he was ready, he would know how far he could go — because people will push you only as far and as hard as you allow them to. Feigning kindness and friendship was his due diligence.

The boy's name was Ezra, and despite his best efforts to fit in, it was apparent from the start that it would be a most difficult task. There were ten of us in our dormitory, and Ezra was the tallest. He was a couple of years older than us, and even though I'm sure the other kids were curious as to why he was even in our class, nobody asked. It would be impolite and in poor taste. And it would ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Mahama dedicates My First Coup d'Etat "to the memory of my father, Mr. E. A. Mahama, a man of humility and integrity, who lived in service of his family, his people, and his nation." Give some examples of the elder Mahama's "humility and integrity." How did he impart these qualities to his nineteen children?
  2. Mahama writes, "A number of us who stayed during the 'lost decades' and lived through the difficulties, whether by choice or force, discovered that it was, ironically, during this time that we found ourselves, our voices." How did the hardships of the "lost decades" shape Mahama's personality, politics, and sensibility?
  3. As a seven-year-old student, the phrase "coup d'etat" was intriguing to Mahama, ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Part memoir, part history lesson, My First Coup d'Etat is a collection of true stories by a Ghanian man who grew up close enough to his country's politics to have some real insight into Ghana's historical events. At the same time, he was far away long enough to have a spectator's perspective. What makes this collection even more interesting is that shortly after its release, the author, John Dramani Mahama, was sworn in as Ghana's newest President.

   (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).

Full Review Members Only (560 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana's recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes.

Kirkus Reviews

Sensitive, honest autobiographical essays… A wonderfully intimate look at the convulsive changes, and deep scarring, in post-colonial Africa.

Author Blurb Aminatta Forna, author of the Commonwealth Book Prize–winning The Memory of Love
Warm and engaging. The view of a complex world in microcosm.

Author Blurb Ngugi wa Thiong'o, author of Weep Not, Child
Mahama's stories lure the reader into an unforgettable journey in which he interacts with history as a living tissue. The characters and the episodes are part of the everyday but one imbued with magic and suggestive power that go beyond the concrete and the palpable to hint at history in motion.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

A Brief History of Ghana

The modern country of Ghana is named after the kings of a medieval civilization in West Africa, the Wagadugu Empire. Later absorbed into the Mali Empire, they were a significant power in trans-Saharan trade, with their capital city on the southern edge of the desert being a major port-of-call for traders and political movers and shakers. Much of Ghana's population today can trace their roots back to this ancient state. Ghana was reputed as having the richest gold mines in the world -- hence the Colonial name for the region, "The Gold Coast."

ghana Attracted by the country's riches, the Portuguese were the first to arrive in Ghana looking to trade in gold, pepper and ivory. To consolidate their position, in 1482, the Portuguese built one ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked My First Coup d'Etat, try these:

  • Homegoing jacket

    Homegoing

    by Yaa Gyasi

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a...

  • All Tomorrow's Parties jacket

    All Tomorrow's Parties

    by Rob Spillman

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    In his intimate, entertaining, and heartfelt memoir, Spillman narrates a colorful, music-filled coming-of-age portrait of an artist's life that is also a cultural exploration of a shifting Berlin.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain

An intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.