Nothing but respect for Adichie, she is a genius.
Half of a yellow sun is about the inferno of the Nigerian civil war; laced with a love story. A book every Nigerian should read. Adichie joined the list of prominent writers who did their part to keep Nigerian history alive in the heart of Nigerian readers since our government has decided to expunge history from the educational curriculum. For this, we are grateful. The book was properly written and intended for the African audience, albeit some debatable points. But then, like our elders say- until the lions present their own historian, the story of the hunt will only justify the hunter. So if anyone wants a debate, go ahead and write your own story or proceed to America and engage Adichie.
This is not a review so I would advise anyone interested in Half of a Yellow Sun to simply pick up the book and read. However I was particularly impressed with the laconic mention of the Asaba massacre using one of the caricatures named Alice. Olanna who is Igbo and also one of the main characters dated a northerner called Mohammed (Adichie showed us a northerner once loved an Igbo).
Like someone had said, she revealed her gift as a “perceptive observer of human behavior”.
How she was able to dovetail the civil war in this fictitious book is virtually unbelievable.
Americanah, however, is a book about race, immigration and the power of first love. The first few chapters made me nauseous when all she talked about was hair. I found it boring, and it reminded me of one of my exes who always talked about her hair and took it upon herself to educate me on the different types of hairs and wigs. I would pretend to be listening but in reality, it made me sick. It’s the same thing I felt in all chapters where the crux was hairs and saloons. As it went on, I started enjoying it. I could transport myself back to secondary school days and fit some of the stories into my life, I could easily represent some of the characters with my friends. A typical Nigerian secondary school, the kind of experience we all had.
In some chapters, I quickly boarded a boat of imaginations to the life in America, carefully and joyfully fitting some of the stories into my life and that of my friends in America.
The way some Nigerians in Diaspora turn to political commentators on Social media, knowingly or unknowingly comparing life in the west with life in Africa; their own way of killing the distance between home and Abroad, the urge to breach a certain gap, to fill a vacuum, to travel home-using the social media. The struggle of hanging on to that Nigerianness, pretending America cannot change you.
The way Africans suddenly realize they are blacks after landing at the American Airports. The unending discussion about racism, pretending to understand racism more than the black Americans, sitting in front of the television playing victims but would never go out to join in on protests. Everything was meticulously touched in this book.
Seeing your highs and lows written in a book; the lows you cannot talk about staring back at you with audacity—yes!….That is the kind of power the book wields.
But still something was wrong, I can’t really place it, perhaps the way it was written. I still do not think the book was intended for an African audience. Even though the book is majorly about Africans, one could argue it’s one of those books about Africans intended for the western audience (NOT POVERTY PORN). I didn’t have this feeling when I read “Half of a yellow sun” or when reading anything Chinua Achebe. But then, there is only one Chinua Achebe. Also, I think the power of first love demonstrated using the two protagonists, Ifemelu and Obinze was exaggerated. Sigh! I can’t even remember my first love. Exaggeration-they say, is a necessary recipe for good writing.
I also think Adichie should have mentioned the prejudice that exists between African Americans and Africans, she shied away from it. Even those who morph into Atheist after experiencing 24hrs of electricity and speedy internet in the west—sigh
Well done Adichie, your writing adroitness deserves a bow.
For anyone who is interested in an extensive review of Americanah, you can read (this)