Author Interview With Peace Adzo Medie

The Book

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

“Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”

Afi Tekple is a young seamstress whose life is narrowing rapidly. She lives in a small town in Ghana with her widowed mother, spending much of her time in her uncle Pious’s house with his many wives and children. Then one day she is offered a life-changing opportunity—a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Elikem Ganyo, a man she doesn’t truly know. She acquiesces, but soon realizes that Elikem is not quite the catch he seemed. He sends a stand-in to his own wedding, and only weeks after Afi is married and installed in a plush apartment in the capital city of Accra does she meet her new husband. It turns out that he is in love with another woman, whom his family disapproves of; Afi is supposed to win him back on their behalf. But it is Accra that eventually wins Afi’s heart and gives her a life of independence that she never could have imagined for herself.

A brilliant scholar and a fierce advocate for women’s rights, author Peace Adzo Medie infuses her debut novel with intelligence and humor. For readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Candice Carty-Williams, His Only Wife is the story of an indomitable and relatable heroine that illuminates what it means to be a woman in a rapidly changing world.

The Interview

Adira: Ms. Medie, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me today!

Your writing in His Only Wife had me so compelled and invested from its first sentence to the point where I pulled an all-nighter to finish it. 

Can you tell me about how you came up with the idea for your novel and what or who influenced your writing process?

Peace Adzo Medie: The influence for His Only came from several places, including my research. I study how gender norms affect various areas of women’s lives, including how these norms impact on their relationships, including marriage. I have published a book on the response to gender-based violence in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and the novel was another vehicle through which I could explore how these norms affect women’s lives.

Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence against Women in Africa by Peace Adzo Medie

A: Like you, I come from an academic background and am big on research that pushes for the conversation of advocacy for vulnerable populations, such as women, children, and those without sufficient resources. You currently also have a scholastic book out now called Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaign to End Violence against Women in Africa. Is there a connection between His Only Wife and this nonfiction work? If so, did your research for either book influence the other?

PAM: Yes, one of the findings from ‘Global Norms and Local Action’ was that women’s relatives and friends influenced the decisions they made after they experienced intimate partner violence. For example, some women told me they stayed in an abusive relationship because of pressure from a parent. While physical violence is not a theme in His Only Wife, pressure from family is a major issue in the book. And I chose to write about it partly because of my research. 

A: For Afi and Eli, community plays a huge part in their decisions throughout your book. How would you define community, and how did you use that definition to influence how you wrote the characters and settings in your novels?

PAM: Community describes the people closest to us, those we rely on and are accountable to, those in whom we see ourselves. It is the nuclear family, but also the extended family and those not related to us but surround us and touch our lives in manifold ways. In His Only Wife, most characters, especially Afi and Eli, are very concerned about their community, particularly their extended family, and this shapes much of what they do. The story underlines the connection between community expectations and character’s daily decisions and actions. 

A: As a social worker, when thinking about clients, I am always confronted with the notion of class and gender and the inherent social boundaries of each. These two things, along with the client’s race, often influence what choices are available to that person and if they are hindered or helped by the resources that are open to them. 

With His Only Wife, you show readers so many variations of how gender and class are tackled by each woman and woven into the fabric of their lives in their backgrounds, the jobs that are available to them, who they can date, and even the food they choose to eat. Was there a significance to how you explored these themes in the building of community in the novel and the character development of Afi, Evelyn, and Mawusi versus the older generation of women in your book (Aunty & Afi’s mother)?

PAM: Yes, I wanted to show how socioeconomic factors limit the options that are available to women, particularly young women like Afi. Many of the decisions that Afi and her mother made were guided by her socioeconomic status. In fact, I don’t think that Afi would have received that marriage proposal if she were from a well-off family, so we see class at play from the very beginning. I sought to show how the socioeconomic status of each character, especially the women impacted on what was possible in their lives. I especially wanted to show how experiences diverged and how some people succeed in climbing the economic ladder and how this then impacted their relationship with those around them.

A: Throughout your novel, there is an emphasis placed on the distinction between a “ceremonial wedding” and a “church wedding.” Does this hold cultural significance for Ghanaian culture, or was this written to help build tension for the drama of your novel? And if it was done for the novel’s sake, why was Elikem’s family so sure it would “fix” him?

PAM: I think a lot of people in Ghana have the traditional wedding and the church wedding. The latter is a relatively new practice that came with Christianity. However, the traditional wedding (and marriage) is deeply rooted and holds great significance in Ghanaian cultures. It usually involves both families, because it is not only about the bride and groom. There is a cultural and legal distinction between these two types of marriages; this is why many people have both. 

A: I loved your writing in His Only Wife so much! Are you working on any new books or a sequel or film adaption to this novel?

PAM: Thank you! Yes, I’m writing my second novel, Nightbloom. It’s a book about female friendship and is set in Ghana and the US.  It explores two childhood friends and their bond over several decades. 

A: Thank you for answering my questions! I can’t wait to read more of your work!

PAM: Thanks for the questions! 


Author Bio

Peace Adzo Medie

Peace Adzo Medie is a Ghanaian writer and senior lecturer in gender and international politics at the University of Bristol in England. Prior to that she was a research fellow at the University of Ghana. She has published several short stories, and her book Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence Against Women in Africa was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. She is an award-winning scholar and has been awarded several fellowships. She holds a PhD in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in geography from the University of Ghana. She was born in Liberia.

A Woman in Her Prime by Asare Konadu #BookReview

Cover of A Woman in Her Prime by Asare Konadu
Cover of A Woman in Her Prime by Asare Konadu

If you’re looking for a “Backlist” read from the African Diaspora, look no further than A Woman In Her Prime by Asare Konadu. This Ghanaian Lit novel centers around the coming of age of Pokuwaa, an industrious farmer from a traditional African village, as she attempts to conceive.

Coming in at a mere 107 pages, this book is excellent for readers who are looking to read something short this week without feeling overwhelmed by their page count. 

The drama in A Woman In Her Prime centers around infertility. However, the way Konadu describes the daily activity of Brenhoma, the village Pokuwaa lives in, readers come to understand Pokuwaa’s infertility is not the main focus of the book. Instead, we see the various interpersonal relationships within Brenhoma and get a feel for how every character that’s introduced fits into village life.

The author also explores the role of traditional religious practices in the character’s lives, the “seasons” of the village as they move from harvest to planting and back, and even inserts a brief mystery to push the story forward. All these topics and actions are condensed within what could technically be considered a novella.

Author, Asare Konadu
Author, Asare Konadu

I think what most pleasantly surprises me about this book is that while Konadu positions Pokuwaa as having infertility issues, he does not make this her only characteristic in the story. Likewise, outside of a few characters, he does not let the villagers of Brenhoma harass Pokuwaa about the particulars of her womb. And these two attributes of his story were refreshing because it felt as if he not only understood that Pokuwaa is more than her womb, but as a male author he showed significantly more empathy for his character than I was expecting from him as a writer.

A Woman in Her Prime shows how important a woman’s role is in society is as the vessel of life even though society can often strip a woman of her agency. By emphasizing the traditional religious sacrifices and gender norms Pokuwaa goes through as she’s trying to conceive, Konadu allows room for commentary on the psychological toll infertility can take on a woman and her partner.

what to read next banner

created by @introvertinterrupted
My 2020 Instagram post for The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin
My 2020 Instagram post for The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

If you’ve read this novel before, I’d suggest following up with The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin. Each of these stories deal with infertility in women from the African Diaspora.

I’ve done a blog post for The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives which you can check out earlier on my blog and even added some additional books you may enjoy to follow up with. Check it out and tell me if you’ve read any of the books in the comment section.

My 2015 Instagram Post of "The Joys of Motherhood" by Buchi Emecheta
My 2015 Instagram Post of The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

I read Emecheta’s book in 2015 and was BLOWN away by how simplistic the writing was. The story follows a woman named, Nnu Ego, as she grows from being a young woman in her father’s compound all the way up until she has kids of her own and onto her passing. Subjects like colonialization, women’s rights in Africa, and how cultural religion is carried out versus the colonizer’s religion are all talked about in The Joys of Motherhood. A lot of critics compare this book to Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, but If you enjoyed Beloved by Toni Morrison, you’ll definitely enjoy Emecheta’s book.

Readers, have you heard of any of these books before?

“Second-Class Citizen” by Buchi Emecheta #BookReview

“Sir, do you have ‘man of the house’ money?!” – Kimberly Nicole Foster, @for.harriet

A paperback copy of "Second-Class Citizen" by Buchi Emecheta sitting next to a cup of tea.

Photo Taken by @Introvert Interrupted
Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta


Nothing gets my blood boiling more than a story about an uneven partnership that teeters into the realm of abuse. Sadly, in Buchi Emecheta’s semi-autobiographical work, Second Class Citizen, her character, Adah Obi, is in just such a relationship.

Adah is a woman who knows her mind & isn’t afraid of hard work. Breaking with Nigerian traditions of her time, she pursues an education at an exclusive school & even ends up getting a government job as a librarian afterward in spite of her family’s misgiving about this independent path she’s on. Adah also ends up marrying Francis, who, on all accounts, is an inferior partner, but he is also her ticket to “freedom.”

Photo of Buchi Emecheta
Buchi Emecheta, Author


In a For Harriet YouTube video by the same name as the above quote, Kimberly points out that patriarchy fails to address how a man can fail to meet many of the mandates for “traditional masculinity (e.g., having a job, providing for your family, being a self-starter, etc.), & still enjoy the spoils of being the “man of the house” just because of his inherent Y-chromosome. Francis, is the perfect example of this.

He is utterly useless, but he STILL demands to be respected. Sadly, the community at large co-signs his trifflingness & mandate that Adah must be submissive to him & all his hairbrained schemes just because Francis is the man of the house. Yet, Adah is the bread winner!

"What to read next" banner

Photo Credit: @IntrovertInterrupted


Reading Emecheta’s book gave me flashbacks of reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, my blood pressure went up & down, & I grew utterly frustrated with the tomfoolery of it all. If you love books that are engrossing with a heavy emphasis on character development, Second-Class Citizen is a must-read. However, The Joys of Motherhood is still my favorite book from Emecheta’s bibliography for the quiet and measured way that Emecheta writes about the loss of culture and infiltration of imperialism into the colonized people’s lives.

Book Recommendations banner:

"Silver Sparrow" by Tayari Jones

"The Joys of Motherhood" by Buchi Emecheta

Photo Credit: @IntrovertInterrupted

What to read after reading “So Long A Letter” by Mariama Bâ

Book Cover of So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ

“Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” – Malorie Blackman

What have you been reading this February?!

This year, I have been focusing less on giving books a star rating and more on how books connect across the Africana Diaspora literary canon.

Mariama Bâ

While So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ is by a Senegalese novel, the issues Bâ covers in this novella mirror topics that so many African-American women have written about.

Bâ speaks of female friendships and how they sustain us, like Toni Morrison in Sula and Alice Walker in The Color Purple.

She speaks of messy affairs in marriages and how love can look different for each person, like bell hooks in All About Love and Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo.

And when I think of scholarly theorist Bâ is communing with, Wicked Flesh by Jessica Marie Johnson and Thick: And Other Essay by Tressie McMillan Cotton, come to mind in the way Bâ stands up for female agency and independence in a society which demands that Black Womanhood appear under the thumb of the patriarchy as a thing of lesser value. Bâ writes about Ramatoulaye, her protagonist, struggle to assert herself as an educated single mother who attempts to assert herself in a society that does not see her as a valuable asset once her husband throws her to the side for his second wife.

Bâ’s writing is intriguing, and to the point, and for anyone who loves a drama-filled read that’s also character-driven, please give this a read.

What to read after The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

“I heard my old friend Clem’s voice coming back to me through the dimness of thirty years: ‘I see you coming here trying to make sense where there is no sense. Try just living in it. Respond, alter, see what happens.’ I thought of the African way of perceiving life, as experience to be lived rather than as problem to be solved.” ― Audre Lorde

Author, Lola Shoneyin

Thanks to Femi from @thebookalert, I got a chance to read The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin last year, and I absolutely loved it! Thank you to @tlcbooktours & @williammorrowbooks for providing me a free copy!

Book Cover of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Shoneyin’s story follows Baba Segi and his four wives, Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi, and Bolanle, who are all hiding secrets from each other.

In a culture that values children, Baba Segi sees his collection of wives and gaggle of children are a symbol of prosperity, success, and a validation of his manhood. 

Book Cover of The Women Of Brewster Place

All is well in this patriarchal home until Baba arrives with wife number four, a quiet, college-educated, young woman named Bolanle. Jealous and resentful of this interloper who is stealing their husband’s attention, Baba’s three wives begin to plan her downfall.

Reading this book, I was placed in the mind of several books across the African Diaspora that are in conversation with Shoneyin’s story:

  • When it comes to the complexity and dynamics of sisterhood that Shoneyin displays in TSLIBSW, I immediately thought of The Women Of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor and the essay, “Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving,” by Audre Lorde in Sister Outsider. There’s a myth that as a feminist or womanist, you have to like everyone, and as Naylor and Shoneyin prove, this isn’t the case. Solidarity amongst women can be as simple as me wanting you to have all your rights, especially the right to stay the heck away from me.
Book Cover of Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Book Cover of Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks
  • The problem of women being seen only as the bearer of children and through the lens of being the property of her husband is explored in #StayWithMe by #AyobamiAdebbayo and in Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks. In TSLIBSW, Shoneyin does a deep dive into how catastrophic it can be to see a woman in a piecemeal way instead of seeing her as a whole being. Each of Baba Segi Wives has their own talents, but because Baba only sees his wives in reference to being child bearers, he can’t see their talents as businesswomen, homemakers, or educated women.
  • While Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi, & Bolanle don’t make any qualms around who Baba fundamentally is as a man or the belief he holds about their culture, there is a sense of resentment that underlines their relationship with him. Each woman’s household status and, subsequently, their independence are tied to Baba’s goodwill. This symbiotic relationship reminds me of all the women’s love for Bill Cosey in Love by Toni Morrison.
Book Cover of Love by Toni Morrison
Book Cover of Decolonising the Mind by Ngūgi wa Thiong’o
  • Lastly, Bolanle’s character made me think of Ngūgī wa Thiongo’s idea of the “cultural bomb” in Decolonizing the Mind and how being educated in societies that rely too heavily on colonial or imperialistic knowledge dilutes the regional culture. Seeing how Baba’s beliefs get challenged by Bolanle’s mere presence was fascinating.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest it!