Chimamanda Adichie codes her novels with respect for a Nigerian culture that as an African American I can only describe as NOT of American Black or White daydreams and NOT of European influence. As entrapped African Americans, we want to know more, hear, see, feel, and smell more throughout her works. It is tasty. We feel at home or we puzzle as to how we can reach that lever that will transform us into what we once were, with all of the positive human imperfections and pensive dramas. The novel, Purple Hibiscus was my first read and her first novel. It still is my favorite audio book for driving through busy cities. Adiche’s second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, erased the flat European images of bloated-bellied brown babies. Their skin ashed and packed with dirt. Their mouths unseemly for feeding. I shudder, at the recall of “Oh-my-Gods” coming from pink twisted American pouty mouths at Biafran charity events and fundraisers. African Americans leaving slums with sweaty pictures of disgraced Biafran war-type photos headed to the airport with dreams of how they are going to save Africa; hoping behind swelled chests and jaws that Africa would save them. Through her work, they disappeared. I was left with a new history and a new vision of the people that birthed me.
So in love and excitement, I dove into “The Thing Around Your Neck,” Adiche’s collection of short stories and her third book. It sits on my table and never makes it to the cluttered shelf. There is always one more time, one more story to read over and over again.
I haven’t read her third novel as yet, Americanah, because that is an experience I will save for this cold winter when the snow is so deep that all is quiet, except snow plows breaking across my New York street. It is just that serious.
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.