Young Ayesha Harruna Attah grew up in a home where reading and writing flow through the blood. Ayesha is a biochemistry degree holder from Mount Holyoke College. She studied journalism at the Columbia University. Her parents own one of Ghana’s respected private newspapers, The Mail, where she started as a tyro.
With a fellowship from Per Ankh Publishers and TrustAfrica, she wrote her first novel, Harmattan Rain that was nominated by the Commonwealth Writers Foundation for best first book from Africa 2010.
The 26-year-old and emerging literary icon who is currently pursuing her creative writing MFA at New York University granted audience to my organization AfricaNews:
AfricaNews: What inspired a biochemistry degree holder to go into writing?
Ayesha: I was always a closet writer, even before I started studying biochemistry in college. While in college I took a bunch of writing classes, so it wasn’t too much of a leap when I decided to study journalism and now creative writing. There are so many stories dying to be told!
AfricaNews: Your parents are journalists. What role did they play in this area?
Ayesha: They understand my challenges as a writer and are 100% behind whatever I decide to do. They are also amazing sources of information and stories.
AfricaNews: How is your first book – Harmattan Rain – doing on the market?
Ayesha: I can’t complain. It’s doing quite well!
AfricaNews: What were some of the fears you considered before and during the time of writing the book?
Ayesha: Too many to list! The fear of not being able to finish writing was the biggest, but I overcame it! Also, the book spans over fifty years of Ghana’s history, so I wanted it to be historically accurate. Wanting to get every detail right became almost unbearable, so I had to tell myself, hey, this is fiction, and then I let my imagination take over.
AfricaNews: How long did it take to complete Harmattan Rain?
Ayesha: It was written at a nine-month program in Popenguine, Senegal.
AfricaNews: Are there some people you want to acknowledge for this feat?
Ayesha: So many! Ayi Kwei Armah, my mentor; Dr. Natalia Kanem for funding the book; my family for their support; my friends who read and reread sections; my aunt Phyllis for putting me on this path; TrustAfrica for funding the writing fellowship, and the many many people who now read the book and find pieces of themselves in its different stories.
AfricaNews: The book was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Africa’s Best First Book category but couldn’t win. What did it mean to you?
Ayesha: It was such an honor to even be shortlisted. Some of my favorite writers—Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie—had won the award in previous years, so it was extremely humbling to be placed in the same category.
AfricaNews: How did you feel when the results were announced?
Ayesha: I was so honored to have been shortlisted that even when Harmattan Rain didn’t win, I found that I wasn’t too heartbroken.
AfricaNews: After Harmattan Rain what next?
Ayesha: I just hope to keep writing!