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The Art of JAMA
August 20, 2014

“The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” Might Not Hold True For Much LongerNjideka Akunyili

JAMA. 2014;312(7):680-681. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279671

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, a novel published in 1968 by the Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, is the story of a railway clerk who would like to give his family a better life but is unwilling to take a bribe to get ahead. A major theme of the novel is the veneration of consumer goods in the years after Ghana gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Status-seeking, upwardly mobile men and women make a show of dressing and speaking like the white Europeans who formerly ran their country, and success is measured in fancy cars, imported liquors, and stylish wigs. The novel suggests that colonial attitudes can’t easily be cast aside with a change in government—at some point people have to think for themselves. Since the late 1960s, when Armah’s novel was published, the competition between home-grown and imported culture in West Africa has to some degree been superseded by the exchange of ideas between African countries and the wider world.

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