Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book Fridays: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It’s been a few months since I read this book and I have slacked on keeping notes or writing about what I’ve read soon after reading it. All I have are some quotes I took pictures of (I was too lazy to write them down and I don’t own the book). I decided against looking at any reviews or summaries as I don’t want to be influenced. In fact, I generally do not read reviews until after I jot down my own thoughts.

The story takes place in Nigeria during their civil war when Biafra was trying to take over. There was tension between the Yoruba and Igbo tribes and many lost their lives in the conflict. The story follows several characters during this time and their stories intersect each other for the entire book. One of these characters is Richard, an expatriate who begins to write a book about the conflict. At the end of the story he reveals that he gave up on that book as it was not his story to tell. I thought that this was such a powerful statement. And one that white people need to take heed. Too often we see white characters portrayed as knights that somehow rescue people of color. This character addresses that. It subverts that too common narrative and sets it right.

I had many favorite scenes but I especially loved the part where Richard gets called out when he states his surprise at Igbo-Ukwu bronzes: “It is quite incredible that these people had perfected the complicated art of lost-wax casting during the time of the Viking Raids.” he says.

When he goes home to his girlfriend Kainene (who is Nigerian and black) he immediately makes the interaction about his feelings. This is a great example of white fragility:

“I do love the art. It was horrible of him to accuse me of disrespect.”

I couldn’t help but notice how he doesn’t even try to see how his statement was telling of his bias that African culture was far too primitive to accomplish such art. He only thinks of his hurt feelings and how he truly does love the art. This brings to mind the recent comments that Kelly Osborne made when she asked Donald Trump who would clean his toilets if he were to get rid of the immigrants. She immediately got in her feelings stating how she is not a racist! But you see, the thing is that you don’t have to be consciously racist in order to hold and express all manner of fucked up biases. That’s a fact and this scene from the book is a good example of it.

Kainene responds: “And it is wrong of you to think that love leaves room for nothing else. It’s possible to love something and still condescend to it.”

I thought her comment was perfect and it applies to real world issues. Many times we see people appropriating a culture under the guise of loving it but if we look closer we see the condescension and contempt held for that very culture they claim to love.

Going into this I had very limited knowledge of Nigerian history. Adichie writes a compelling story that kept me interested and invested throughout. She is currently one of my favorite authors and I don’t see this changing any time soon.

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Book Fridays: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It’s the dreaded F word of modern times… I find that men and women alike are afraid of the word feminist. So much so that it’s becoming common for female celebrities to publicly distance themselves from the term but why is that? Now, among women of color (especially black women) there is an understandable aversion to mainstream feminism because it is often not intersectional. It doesn’t include black women but that’s material for a whole other post.

I have found myself more times than I care to count in conversation with people who truly have no idea what feminism is. They base their opinions on misinformation and anecdotes that support it. Feminism is NOT about superiority over men. Also, feminism is NOT misandry. Misandry is also not a real thing. It is not the counterpart to mysoginy much like reverse racism is a myth.

We Should All Be Feminists is a wonderful essay adapted from Adichie’s Tedx talk of the same name. It is a short read but a powerful one. Her Tedx talk is just as wonderful and you can watch it here. She approaches the topic in a way that is accessible and powerful.

I found it difficult to choose an excerpt to share but I succeeded:

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer wold. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.

We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.”

Feminism is not just about women, it’s about men, too. We should all be feminists because this cage affects us all.

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