Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimanada Ngozi Adichie *****

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie populates the interface between Africa and the United States with a pride of characters who are simultaneously innocents and sophisticates. This volume of short stories includes: an arranged marriage between an Afro-American doctor and the village girl sent from Nigeria to be his wife, the victim of tribal violence who refuses to use her murdered son's story to support her request for asylum in the United States, and the attendee at an African-writers' workshop being told her stories were not "real stories about real people."

Ms. Adichie delivers universal characters in a rich and informative African setting. While the stories come from the contemporary African experience, they certainly will resonate for immigrants of other times and other places.

I am reminded of working in Silicon Valley in the 1980s when my company hired Asian immigrants, and the first thing Human Resources did was assign new hires "American" names; Tran became Tom, etc. The same incident is repeated in a missionary school in Africa in this book. The right of the powerful to name to weak goes all the way back to Genesis and Adam naming the animals.

Ms. Adichie is an insightful and accomplished writer. This small book is both poignant and pleasurable and I recommend it highly.

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