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  • Nii Ayikwei Parkes 10:08 pm on June 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ga, idioms, meanings, , , twi   

    for those who want to know more 

    I made a conscious decision while writing Tail of the Blue Bird that I wasn’t going to make an extra effort to find equivalent English words for things I only knew in Ghanaian languages e.g. prekese, which is used for flavouring food. But I also chose to use native words where I felt they served the situation better – AND not to add a glossary because after all, when I was growing up in Ghana, no one placed a glossary at the end of any of the books I read to explain what finches (for example) were. Regardless, there were places where I could find out what these things were if I wanted to, and that’s what this post is. A minimal glossary of sorts. If you have read Tail of the Blue Bird and find yourself struggling to understand something that is not listed here, just put a comment on this post and I will try to respond.

    Nii Ayikwei



    Abomu – Belt

    Adowa – a traditional dance of the Akan

    Agoo – a word shouted instead of knocking on someone’s door (most homes had no doors to knock)

    Akwaaba – welcome (the response depends on who you’re addressing Yεn nua for a friend, Yεn Na for an older woman etc.)

    Amεε – response to ‘Agoo’ meaning, ‘we’re here’ or ‘come in’

    Anyεn – witch

    Awurade – Lord

    Bassa bassa – wild, disorderly

    Been-to – someone who has returned from living/studying outside the country

    Benada – Tuesday

    Bidie – Charcoal

    Bosomtwe – a natural crater lake, formed by meteor impact centuries ago

    Chale – a term used to address friends, similar to ‘my friend,’ but warmer

    Dwowda – Monday

    Fida – Friday

    Kama – perfect

    Kεtε – a woven mat with many uses

    Kwaku Ananse – mythical trickster who inhabits most Akan moral tales

    Kwasia – fool, buffoon

    Kwasida – Sunday

    Menada – Saturday

    Nawotwe – an Akan week (normally eight days)

    Onyame – God

    Opanyin – elder (used to address the older people in any community), a similar word is Egya.

    Paa – word used for emphasis, equivalent of ‘very’ or ‘really’

    Sanyaa – Enamel

    Sεbi – an expression used when one speaks of things that make them uncomfortable, or things they usually wouldn’t speak of

    Trotro – an adapted minivan bus

    Wukuda – Wednesday

    Yawda – Thursday

    • John Blinn 10:50 pm on February 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      You evidently have a core following here in Central Texas. Our niece at the University of Texas is doing a summer program in Ghana and – like your reader Ken Shepardson – preparing myself for the culture she’ll encounter, I found Tail of the Blue Bird at the Austin library. Superbly crafted, a wonderful read. Thanks so much (and please come visit us in Austin again).

      • Nii Ayikwei Parkes 11:02 pm on February 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you!I hope to visit Austin again sometime in the future. I’ve been raving about the catfish I had the last time out there for years!

    • Rena 12:23 am on March 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I read this book because our book group selected it. We are volunteer museum guides and currently have an exhibit of Asafo Fante flags and Kente cloth at the Mingei International Myseum in San Diego California. We are reading the book to help us get better insight into the exhibit by reading books by authors who are fromGhana.
      A great mystery and loved the dialogue…the glossary did help

  • Nii Ayikwei Parkes 7:46 am on June 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    How did you get it? 

    This is Nii Ayikwei Parkes, author of Tail of the Blue Bird. And this blog is just a little experiment for me to find out how people got their hands on my book, since I’ve begun to hear horror tales about buyers being told the book is not available, or not being able to find the book on shelves even though the book store staff insist there are copies in store. It’s also a way for me to get a feel of how well (or badly) the book is doing independently – without having to rely on my publisher’s reports. Thanks for coming along to help!

    • Lydia Allotey 8:45 am on June 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Nii Ayikwei,
      This is Lydia Allotey from your FB contact. I have just checked Amazon US, Borders Book, and Barnes & Noble bookstore in the US and none have your book. I do see it on the UK website. Do you know if the book will ever be sold in the US, I have to have to pay the international Shipping, exchange rate etc. if I can avoid it. If the book is being sold by any retailer her in thew US that you know of kindly let me know. I am rather surprised about Amazon as they usually carry their books across the board.

      • niiayikwei 7:16 pm on June 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        Yeah, the US rights to Tail of the Blue Bird are still in negotiations and so Jonathan Cape are not allowed to sell directly to the US – only export sales are allowed. So, perhaps if you buy from one of the private sellers on Amazon UK [ ], some of whom have US offices and who sell at a lower price anyway, you’ll end up getting it at a decent price – even with the higher postage costs. Thanks for being so persistent!!

    • Yao B Nunoo 7:13 pm on June 30, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I just finished reading the book and I am reading it for the second time. I live in Philadelphia and I had to order it on amazon UK. (Shipping was free). NIi, its so funny that your name came up in many conversations while I was living in Accra hanging out with my Augusco and film buddies this year. Has anyone approached you about their intention to obtain rights for a film yet? If not, have you considered it at all? You deserve all the credit.
      (brightnoon pictures, LLC)

      • niiayikwei 7:57 pm on June 30, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Yao,
        You got free shipping to the US? You must be on one of those Amazon Prime accounts! Anyway, speaking of film rights? I haven’t sold any, but the BBC had expressed interest in another project I am working on and I had to write a treatment for them, so (to improve my knowledge of the art form – cos writing treatments is a whole new discipline!) I’ve drafted one for ‘Tail of the Blue Bird’ as well and hope to complete it and give it to my agent soon.

        Thanks for reading the book, and extra thanks for stopping by to share your experience!

        • yao b nunoo 3:50 am on July 2, 2009 Permalink

          I no get any special deal from amazon . that be the thing. Or maybe I for check make sure say they no charge me. If so, I go bore paaa!
          Anyway, I am glad to hear that you are writing cinematic treatments for your story. I read ‘Tail of the Bluebird’ and thought how great the story was as a piece of literature, but also how effective it would be as a film piece. I have to admit, I am a film maker (screen writer/ producer) very interested in involving myself in any effort to see the story as a film. After finishing the story, I thought to myself, essentially that this is a story that starts off trying to give its reader the answer they so want, and ends up giving them the answer they really need. Many books have tried that and it is difficult (quite frankly) to do. The story itself is very self aware of this deliberate manipulation, because it knows the reader/ audience will be grateful for it in the end, and I was. It reminded me of Akutagawa’s short story ‘In the Grove’ which was adapted by Kurosawa’s for ‘Rashomon’ (1950). I would like the chance to talk to you more about it, if that’s ok with you. If not, that’s very cool and respected. In any case- all the very best to you.
          (Hand Shake and a Finger Snap!)

    • Lydia Allotey 4:03 pm on August 2, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I finally caved in and purchased “Tail of the Blue Bird” from one of the vendors on at a price that was within reason considering international shipping and the foreign exchange rates. It all came to about 22. +USD.

      I am glad I did not wait for this book to make the New York Times best sellers book list in the US before buying and reading it. It is well worth the extra trouble I had to acquire it. Although there are areas that I might have hoped for a different effect, the story is well written and engaging.

      For me, it was delightful to have African customs, mythology and folklore presented to the reader in such a natural and positive light. For a reader who has never been to Africa, this book will serve as a fantastic introduction, and for those of us who are familiar with the environment this story will make us smile.

    • Chris Kramer 4:02 pm on January 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I bought the book from Amazon after reading about it in a US library journal, Booklist. It was special for me because my husband and I lived near Takoradi from 2000-2002. I hope you are writing more books about Ghana.

      • niiayikwei 3:30 pm on January 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Hi! Thanks for sharing (I’ve heard a couple more Booklist stories) – and great to hear that you lived in Takoradi (one of my favourite towns). Did you know that the family that invented Jenga (the game) lived in Takoradi too?

    • Ken Shepardson 3:43 am on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I picked up your book at a library here in Round Rock, TX, on Friday evening in the “New Fiction” section. I will be spending a month in Accra this October on assignment with a small international team of consultants. One of the team members mentioned that she wanted to read some Ghanaian fiction before deployment to get a feel for the culture. Thinking that was a great idea, I headed to the library and was pleased to find Tail of the Blue Bird. I am even more pleased now that I have read it. Very enjoyable! Can’t wait to get to Ghana to experience the culture described in your wonderful novel!

      • Nii Ayikwei Parkes 9:47 am on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you for sharing. I haven’t been to Texas since the 2005 Austin International Poetry Festival, so it’s good to know I still have the odd reader out there. I love Ghana (it’s important to visit more than just Accra) and I hope you will too. On the professional front, financial strains in the US/Europe have led to a lot of highly-qualified Ghanaians returning home so I’m hopeful work will be rewarding too!

        • Ken Shepardson 3:56 pm on September 8, 2011 Permalink

          Thank you, too. We will spend weekdays in Accra but hope to have free time on weekends. Do you have any suggestions for us on key things to get the real Ghanaian experience in our limited time there? I recommended “Tail of the Blue Bird” as great background reading to the team of 12 consultants from 8 countries/4 continents.

    • AK 9:33 pm on November 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I met you at an African book sale in Islington and bought it there. Read it in two days! Loved it. Appreciated the way you didn’t compromise on the language – why filter your work for people who are too lazy to learn about a culture different to their own? Write another…you could be to Accra what Ian Rankin is to Edinburgh 😉

      • Chris Kramer 3:28 am on November 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Yes, please. We want more.

    • kathy 3:25 pm on June 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I asked about novels from Ghana on a whim as my daughter is about to go there for a summer community service and exploration trip — and it happened that the bookshop at busboys and poets cafe in Wash DC had this lovely book in stock. I enjoyed it very much – esp the insights into social relationships within and between different communities, and the not too heavy but authentic moral character of the protaganist. I will pass the book on to my daughter and her friends…hope you will write more and good luck with the film prospects.

      • Filip 5:42 pm on January 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        got it there as well 😉

      • Nii Ayikwei Parkes 6:15 pm on January 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        A very belated thank you, Kathy. I love Busboys myself; they’ve been very supportive of my work even though I only visit once every couple of years!
        (and thanks Filip for nudging me back to Kathy’s post)

    • Cheryl 4:11 pm on August 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I was intrigued by the book’s description on a library list-serv. Our own library system, in which I am employed, does not have the book so I ordered it via interlibrary loan from another town in British Columbia. I love the book and will approach our reader’s advisor to purchase a copy for our own system.

      • Nii Ayikwei Parkes 7:37 pm on August 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you! There is something about a book getting into a new library that always excites me. Most of my early reading was done in libraries and I love them.

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