Ama Ata Aidoo’s “No Sweetness Here” is a pint-sized collection of short stories full of cutting phrases and cunning characters through which Aidoo cracks a window into life in Ghana. First published in 1970, “No Sweetness Here” may contain references that have lost their poignancy and details which have become outmoded, but Aidoo’s themes and characters endure. In stories that are at once brief and deep, Aidoo explores issues that transcend time and space – gender roles, motherhood, and the struggles of both urban and rural communities.
In Aidoo’s Ghana, women are breeders first and foremost. One character, whose young son lays dying, bemoans that:
“Should any of my friends hear me moaning, they will say I am behaving like one who has not lost a baby before, like a fresh bride who sees her first baby dying. Now all I must do is to try and prepare myself for another pregnancy, for it seems this is the reason why I was created…to be pregnant for nine of the twelve months of every year….It is the pattern set for my life.”
Aidoo’s message is clear – women are raised to bear children and to serve their household. They are not meant to be educated, respected, nor liberated to do as they please.
“No Sweetness Here” provides a thumbnail sketch of the cultural milieu and day-to-day struggles of a life in west Africa through beautiful imagery, captivating characters, and writing that is delicate and minimal.