Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Thing Around Your Neck - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is a Nigerian writer whose novel Half of a Yellow Sun I absolutely loved a couple years back. This collection of short stories has a similar feel - most (but not all) of the stories feature women from Nigeria strugging to survive amidst political conflict in Africa, or figuring out how to live with new rules in the United States. I find Adichie's writing so beautiful, and each of the stories brings to life the discomfort of the characters within. My favorites included "Jumping Monday Hill" about a writer's retreat in Cape Town where authors from numerous African countries come together to share their stories and their prejudices. Particularly tragic was "The American Embassy" about a woman applying for asylum, but unwilling to tell the brutal story of her son's murder to an unsympathetic and incredulous intake officer. And one I found difficult to read, but impossible to put down, "The Arrangers of Marriage" about a woman who travels to New York with her new husband and discovers that he has rejected everything about their Nigerian culture. There is so much pain in each story, but also so much about continuing to live. This was a difficult collection for me to read straight through - even though I fell in love with the writing and am just amazed by Adichie's talent - the stories were at times too raw. Besides, I think this is a good one to savor. I have just requested Adichie's first novel, The Purple Hibiscus from the library, and look forward to learning about more of her work.

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