Nana Mensah’s dark comedy Queen of Glory is a look at life within the Ghanaian-American community as someone who was raised there. The idea of community and its power to bring healing are central to the story.
Sarah Obeng (Mensah) is a doctoral student at Columbia, who is planning on leaving the city to follow her married lover to his new teaching job in Ohio. When her mother dies unexpectedly, Sarah discovers that she’s inherited her mother’s Christian bookstore in the Bronx. The arrangements become complicated because her father returns from Ghana for the funeral. He and the rest of her mother’s Ghanaian friends expect a much more complicated traditional service than the “white person” wake Sarah planned on.
She plans to sell the bookstore, but there is an employee that would impact. While she is dealing with all this, her lover has pretty much ghosted her. Her life has become chaos, and she has nowhere to turn. Except that as she meets the various people from her mother’s life—the Ghanaian aunties, the bookstore employee, and the family next door (which has it’s own sense of appealing chaos), she finds that there is more to what life can be than what she had imagined in Ohio.
Mensah made this film because she felt the Ghanaian-American immigrant experience hasn’t really been seen. She is the son of immigrants. Her mother owns a Christian bookstore in the Bronx. Her depiction of the experience gives us some insight into the community. However, for someone not in that community, the various customs we see are never really explained, nor is the role that Christianity plays in Sarah’s life (given that her mother has a Christian bookstore).
The film offers a glimpse at the grace that is found in community. The bookstore worker, Pitt (Meeko Gattsuo), is the obvious example. He’s not Ghanaian, but has been taken in by Sarah’s mother in spite of his background and the tattoos that cover him. Our first impression of him is not who he really is. There is also the acceptance that Sarah finds in the community that she has been trying to ignore for the last several years.
What brings healing into Sarah’s life is not based in her personality or determination; it is in the communities that welcome her—bookstore, neighbors, Ghanaian immigrants. It is when she allows herself to be in community that her grief and solitude find outlets.
Queen of Glory is in select theaters.