Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Can you ever really leave home?

These stories were about Nigerians (mostly woman) either trying to figure out American culture or figure out African men or endure the violent ineptness of Nigerian governance.  The newfound wealth of Nigerian society is often in the background.  Adichie is a great story teller, full of humor, although not far beneath the surface is an underlying anger about the injustice, corruption and violence.  Men hold the power in Africa, and many of the stories conclude by the female main character either fleeing or rejecting the male value system. Though fleeing does not always make for a satisfying ending and a few of the stories were weakened by the neat ending, the slick twist. The only outright angry story is reserved for one about the English guy running a conference of talented African writers – in the workshop he forces his simplistic romantic stereotype of the African native over the writers’ personal pain, their personal story.

The best of these have to do with family. I really liked The Headstrong Historian, which worked on two levels. The first was a story of a mother and grandmother’s love and the second was a pocket history of Nigerian colonization and the vitality of native culture. Cell One, was an indictment of Nigerian corruption, a glimpse into the bad things upper class youth are doing, but at its core it had a universal theme of a family mourning a son gone wrong. There’s nothing they can do to help.

I also liked A Private Experience about an educated Christian girl taking shelter in a riot with an uneducated Muslim woman. Also, I liked Ghosts, about an old man recalling the Biafran conflict. A matter of fact presentation of horrible events. These stories were gripping, completely enjoyable.

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