Recently Reading: The Thing Around Your Neck

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

This was my introduction to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's writing. I'd heard Bey feature her Ted talk 'We should all be Feminists' on Flawless of course, and seen countless instagram pics of her books Half A Yellow Sun and Americanah (now on my to-read list), but I'd never actually read any of her work. Sytlist Magazine's recent book issue featured The Thing Around Your Neck in their pick of short story collections and said 'Adichie's is an important voice and we want to hear it again and again'. Adichie was the only writer on the list of 100 holiday reads to be featured twice; they love her that much.

And now I can see why. The quote on the cover from the Telegraph 'She makes storyelling seem as easy as birdsong' could not be more accurate, Adichie weaves authentic tales using such lyrical language that stories flow effortlessly. Settings, whether in the city of Lagos, suburbs of America or rural Nigerian towns are painted vividly in this collection of short stories which largely feature female protagonists. It was a delight to feel the strong sense of Nigerian identity that ran through all the stories for example through mentions of different Nigerian languages and customs, whether the stories were set there or in the States. The different facets of the immigrant experience are explored throroughly, from the expectations of family and the presumed grattitude one must exhibit for the help with a visa to trying to find African food or black hairdressers in white neighbourhoods.

Stories of war and homosexuality are handled as delicately as adultery. Adichie's characters are imbued with a subtle intelligence and the only flaw I could find is that although all very different, I found the women mostly to be passive until the very last story, The Headstrong Historian, which featured two strong women, Nwamgba and her grand daughter Grace/Afamefuna.

Divides in Nigeria due to class or education were interesting to discover and having not read much literature by African writers, The Thing Around Your Neck was a polished intorduction. I can't wait to read more of Adichie's work.

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