You had just finished Adichie’s latest book and sat down to write a post to your blog about it. You had realized that it was drawing your mind towards yourself and the people and places around you. It was the summer you did not go to Roskilde Festival, the summer you finished early at uni and started late, the summer your mother was waiting anxiously for your arrival back home, where you belong, on the little islands in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. The islands very few people knew, and most outsiders deemed either breathtakingly beautiful when speaking of the nature, or backwards and stubborn when speaking of its inhabitants, of course they did not know the incredibly fabulousness of the society because they weren’t insiders. You were watching the sunny pavement outside and wondering what kind of weather would form your holiday visit to your homeland.
Adichie speaks to me. The little section here up above is my own humble way of showing one of the narrational techniques she uses and the air with which she does it. She is a storyteller of refreshing confidence. The stories are pervaded with curious impressions of her women protagonists, who either are out of their cultural boundaries, relocated in geography or seeing new situations arise out of old settings. So many of these short stories deserve attention on so many levels but what most struck me (probably on a relational level) was the sense of being or existence on the one hand, and the quizzical reflection the narrators have on people who deny their culture and identity. There is a lot of emphasis on who someone is, and why someone is. What does culture mean, and how ingrown are you? Is it easy to change from one cultural identity or are you just posing, trying to fit in? When you no longer feel kinship with a former identity, do you feel shame, or do you scorn others for not evolving as much as you? Do you have the right to weave your own culture into someone else’s, to put your mark on it? All of these questions arose in my mind while reading Adichie, and all of the women are so beautifully human.
However, I also have some reservations with the stories. In general, the issue of race, and especially the multifaceted power issues between white and black, somehow always ends up in the same critique of the former and the self-negating puppet actions of the latter. The former is always displaying condescending attitude towards the latter, no matter if he means well or is trying to forcibly impose his ideas, and the latter takes the rottenness of the former and pervades himself with it. Granted, the issue is fraught with so much background by now, that no matter what stance you take, you take the wrong one. But it gets tiring, and I do wish (fairytales and pixie-dust) that we could move on, individual to individual, on more equal terms.
‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ did for me just what I want books to do for me: they opened a door into a realm I am not entirely aquatinted with and invited me to think (even if some doors were closed and some places were thought for me).