Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an author I’ve heard quite a lot about over the last year or so, especially for her novel Americanah. Because it’s been hyped up so much I felt hesitant to start with that work and instead decided to start with one of her less popular works – The Thing Around Your Neck, a short story collection.
I understand why some would find it harder to read short stories rather than novels, it forces you as a reader to get in and out of worlds (and stories) much more frequently than otherwise, to build an attachment to characters you only stay with a short period of time. But I also find short stories can be even more powerful because of its limited amount of space and time. Both of these points are true for The thing around your neck. I found it quite hard to get into most of the stories at first, but they each had a strong impact on me.
The stories all focus on culture – the clashes of culture between American and Nigerian, the prejudices of both, especially American (and in turn, the Western world as a whole), the hardships Nigerian people faces in entering this new culture, as well as the hardships they face in their own home country. I found the collection to be informative and eye-opening in many ways. I’m sure it would do many people good to read it, to see the world from a different perspective and worldview than the dominating one in the Western world. It shows us not only how we are different but also how we are similar, all over the world.
I personally have very limited knowledge of Nigeria or any other African countries; how the societies work, how people live, how ordinary people go about their daily lives and the things they think and feel. I feel like television and media has a tendency of making it seem as if every person living in an African country is poor, starving, uneducated, in need of saving – imagine the ads for any of the charities that focus on African countries’ aid. Not that there aren’t people like that, and that the charities aren’t useful, or important. But to me anyway there’s this rather simplistic way in which we view this entire continent (the fact that I haven’t really read any other African literature speaks for itself) which is actually one of the themes I feel like Adichie addresses.
What I’m trying to say is that I think this collection does a good job of forcing you to wake up and really see the world around you, and I would highly recommend everyone to give it a try.
The other thing I noticed with the stories is that they are all rather sad, there’s this sadness lingering as a red thread throughout, which makes it even harder to read – but no less worth reading. My favorite stories were: the title story The thing around your neck which brought tears to my eyes, A Private Experience and The Headstrong Historian, but they were all excellent. I was also pleasantly surprised that two of the stories; The thing around your neck, and Tomorrow is too far; were written in second-person narrative. I don’t think I’ve ever read fiction in this narrative style and Adichie did it incredibly well.
Basically I really liked it and I am planning to eventually buy my own copy as I borrowed this from the library. Again, I highly urge everyone to pick it up.
Until next time, Happy Reading!