Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The thing around your neck-part 1(Book Review)

My attempts at blog-worthy pictures and pre-ramadhan ice-cream :-)
The thing around your neck is a collection of 12 short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The good thing about reading a collection of short stories is that you get the advantage of reading many different stories in the same book which is a big win because if one story does not do it for you, then another one will. All the stories in the book are different but are around the themes she has always written about because I am a true Chimamanda fan and have read 4 of her books; Americanah, Purple Hibiscus, Half of a yellow sun and now the thing around your neck and watched her a lot on you-tube I can for sure say I know what she writes about and that I think her books are female books :-) :-) because she is definitely writing for a female audience.

The stories in this book cover the following themes;
1) The Biafra war
2) The stories of immigrants(Nigerian immigrants)-perception of  those left behind at home have and how they struggle abroad.
3) Issues around parenting and siblings (family)
4) Women and women empowerment
5) Identity issues: traditional practises versus white man and his new religion.
6) Media freedom and police brutality (Nigerian politics or should I say Kenya recently?)

She  is an excellent story-teller and all the stories in the book are nice, The stories I LOVED the most are: Shivering, Ghosts, The headstrong historian and A private experience.

Since writing about the 12 stories in one post will make it a really long one. I will write three posts each with 4 stories :-) :-) because keeping it short and sweet is major key right? (read in DJ Khaleed's snapchat voice).

Cell One

'You cannot raise your children well, all of you people who feel important because you work in the university. When your children misbehave, you think they should not be punished, You are lucky, madam, very lucky that they released him.'

Cell one tells the story of a teenage boy Nnamabia who is jailed because he is suspected to be a gang-member of one of the many gangs in the university he goes to that are causing havoc and need to be taught a lesson and to set example to other students-‘The cult problem was serious, Big men in Abuja were following events. Everybody wanted to appear to be doing something’.

His parents are lecturers in the university that he attends and the story has flashbacks that show his mother and how she always forgave him for big mistakes and covered up for him when if she corrected him maybe he could not have been in jail.

The story also has elements that show police and their corruption and that they allow his parents to visit him and bring him food every day provided they bribed the officer on duty.

Cell One is where all the bad criminals are taken and it’s a place that is feared even by the worst prisoner. Nnamabia is taken to Cell One a day before his release after he defends an old man that is being treated unfairly by the police-men.In some way it shows that he still has some good in him.


'Then she met Obiora on a rainy when he walked into the reception area of the advertising agency and she smiled and said “Good morning, sir. Can I help you? And he said, ”Yes, please make the rain stop.Mermaid eyes'', he called her that first day. He did not ask her to meet him at a private guest-house like all the other men, but instead took her to dinner at the vibrantly public Lagoon restaurant, where anybody could have seen them. He asked about her family. He ordered wine that tested sour on her tongue, telling her,  ”You will come to like it,” and so she made herself like the wine right away. She was nothing like the wives of his friends, the kind of women who went abroad and bumped into each other while shopping at Harrods, and she held her breath waiting for Obiora to realize this and leave her. But the months passed and he introduced her to his friends at the boat club and he moved her out of the self-contained in Ojota and into a real flat in Ikeja. When he asked if she would marry him, she thought how unnecessary it was, his asking, since she would have been happy simply to be told.'

Imitation tells the story of Nkem and her husband Obiora. Nkem is married to a rich man which something she never thought would happen and because of this she lets him ‘dictate’ her life and make choices for her even when she would have preferred other things than his decisions as she is so charmed by her new life that is coveted by many. They live apart her in America and him in Nigeria because of his businesses and he visits for two months each year and her and the children go to Nigeria for Christmas.This arrangement is Obiora’s and Nkem simply fell into it.

'All is well until a friend of Nkem (Ijemamaka) calls and tells her in detail that her husband has a taken a younger mistress back in Lagos, how the mistress looks, how she does her hair, that she has moved into her home and even drives her husband’s car and as expected Nkem decides to move back home to keep an eye on Obiora.

Quotes/Passages I liked from this story

''At first when she had come to America to have the baby, she had been proudly excited because she had married into the coveted league, the Rich Nigerian men who send their wives to have to America to have their babies league. Then the house they rented went up for sale. A good price, Obiora said, before telling her they would buy. She had never imagined that her children would go to school,sit side by side with white children whose parents owned mansions on lonely hills,never imagined this life.So she said nothing''.

''Oga Obiora is a good man, madam and he loves you. Many women would be jealous, maybe your friend Ijemamaka is jealous. Maybe she is not a true friend. There are things she should not tell you. There are things that are good if you don’t know''.

A private experience

''Chika’s hands are trembling .Just half an hour ago, she was in the market with Nnedi. She was buying oranges and Nnedi had walked farther down to buy groundnuts and then there was shouting in English,in Pidgin,in Hausa,in Igbo.Riot!Trouble is coming,oh! They have killed a man!”

A private experience is about a riot that happens in market. It is a tribal riot where Hausas and Igbos are fighting. The two women in this story one rich Igbo girl who is visiting her aunty in Kano and a Hausa market woman meet as they are running from the market and the Hausa woman helps the young Igbo girl by directing her to a safe hide-away so that they could hide together until the riots/fights end. They both loose people  close to them during this riot, the Igbo girl her only sister and the Hausa market woman her eldest daughter.During the time they are hiding they talk to each and help each other irrespective of their social/economic class and tribe differences and talk about the loved ones whom they had some-how  ran in different directions when the riots began and the Igbo girl who is a medical student examines and offers medical advise to the Hausa woman.

Quotes/passages  from this Story that I loved

’She will look at only one of the corpses,naked,stiff,facedown,and it will strike her that she cannot tell if the partially burned man is Igbo or Hausa, Christian or Muslim, from looking at the charred flesh. She will listen to BBC radio and hear the accounts of the deaths and the riots-‘’religious with undertones of ethnic tension’’ the voice will say.And she will fling the radio to the wall and a fierce red rage will run through her at how it has all been packaged and sanitized and made to fit into so few words’’.

‘’……………………riots do not happen in a vacuum,that religion and ethnicity are often politicized because the ruler is safe if the hungry ruled are killing one another.’’


''Ikenna? Ikenna Okoro?” I asked in the tentative way one suggests  something that cannot be:the coming to life of a man who had died thirty seven years ago.''

I loved loved this story and in as far as quoting passages and quotes from it I might end-up re-typing the whole of it here.

It’s the story of a retired lecturer,his dead wife who in this story still comes to him and they hang out because after all Chimamanda is Nigerian and such things seem to happen there and a revolutionary called Ikenna who everyone thought had died during the Biafra war but the retired professor on one of his visits to find out of his pension has been processed sees him at the University administration block.Apparently he had been able to escape and went abroad and worked for charities that supported Nigerian communities during the war.Talking of charities and the Biafra war has anyone read Half of a yellow sun and noticed the way Chimamanda throws shade at humanitarian agencies for bringing food-aid that the people cannot eat,instead of say finding out that these people are rice people and bringing them rice

Quotes/passages I loved from this story

''We had not been good friends, Ikenna and I; I knew him fairly well in those days only because everyone knew him fairly well.It was he who, when the new vice chancellor, a Nigerian man raised in England, announced that all lecturers must wear ties to class, had defiantly continued to wear his brightly coloured tunics,''

''…….He is still a shrunken man with froglike eyes and light-skin,which has now become discolored,dotted with brown age spots.One heard of him in those days and then struggled to hide great disappointment upon seeing him,because the depth of his rhetoric somehow demanded good looks.But then my people say that a famous animal does not always fill the hunter’s basket''

''Chris Okigbo died,not so? Ikenna asked,and made me focus again.For a moment I wondered if he wanted me to deny that,to make Okigbo a ghost-come-back,too,But Okigbo died,our genius,our star,the man whose poetry moved us all,even those of us in the sciences who did not always understand it.''

''So what do you do these days? He seemed curious,as if he was wondering just what kind of life I am leading here,alone,on a university campus that is now a withered skin of what it used to be,waiting for a pension that never comes.I smiled and said that I am resting.Is that not what one does on retiring? Do we not call retirement in Igbo ‘’the resting of old age?.''

''But we hardly talked about the war.When we did,it was with implacable vagueness,as if what mattered were not that which we crouched in muddy bunkers during air raids after we buried corpses with bits of pink on their charred skin,not that we had eaten cassava peels and watched our children bellies swell from malnutrition,but that we had survived.It was a tacit agreement amongst all of us,the survivors of the Biafra.Even Ebere and I,who had debated our first child’s name,Zik,for months,agreed very quickly on Nkiruka:what is ahead is better.''

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