Book Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Bildungsroman

“It was as if he had suddenly been made to see that the Incredible Hulk was really just green paint.”

Adichie can even make jargon sound urgent and important, so imagine what an already urgently set agenda novel would sound like; more like scream like. 

“The Tanzanian told her that all fiction was therapy, some sort of therapy, no matter what anybody said.”

The Thing Around Your Neck is one those books that makes you feel maudlin for all the people you never knew existed, who struggled with such condor, that it makes you let out a silent prayer; not just for other people out there but also for yourself, to have the same everlasting courage that radiates off most Africans, in surviving through this black hole of an endless struggle we call life. 

“Is it a good life, Daddy?” 

“It is not good or bad,” I tell her, “it is simply mine.”

I wouldn’t have believed someone if they had told me that twelve short stories were enough to rip my world of leisure and comfort apart; that my world of leisure and comfort is just a dream that looks too real, a dream that will be broken once I wake up into the dawn of real life battles. It takes just twelve stories to believe that the world is unapologetic to all the independent women, who are powerful today as a result of fighting through sexual abuse and commodification, to all the people who have died while striving to challenge the heathen society’s misleadings (their graves still flowerless) and to all the men who live everyday with the knowledge that they could soon be murdered and yet continue to voice out the falsities set up by a histrionic government. It takes just twelve stories to realise that the world is not just full of glamorous people, but of those people who hold dignity of their myriad journey of struggles and who hold sovereignty of their strong opinions; people who are truly glamorous with freedom of expression and compassion. 

“It was as if he was performing his life instead of living his life.”

The Thing Around Your Neck chokes you enough to make you realise about life’s worth.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. The British had a way of using words like “expedition” and “pacification” for killing and stealing.
  2. It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope.
  3. It is what America does to you, she thinks. It forces egalitarianism on you.
  4. Perhaps he was mourning a time immersed in possibilities.
  5. It is our diffidence about afterlife that leads us to religion.
  6. “You speak such good English,” he said, and it annoyed her, his surprise, his assumption that English was somehow his personal property.
  7. Ujunwa thought she might like her, but only the way she liked alcohol – in small amounts.
  8. White people who liked Africa too much and those who liked Africa too little were the same – condescending.
  9. You can’t use human reasoning for God.
  10. Everybody has a crisis of faith. It’s normal.
  11. How can you love somebody and yet want to manage the amount of happiness that person is allowed?
  12. How can a person claim to love you and yet want you to do things that suit only them?
  13. I read a book that says that we don’t fall in love, we climb up to love.
  14. People ruled over others not because they were better but because they had better guns.
  15. It would cause her to make a clear link between education and dignity; between the hard, obvious things that are printed in books and the soft, subtle things that lodge themselves into the soul.

Book Review: The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Genre: Domestic Fiction, Epistolary Novel

‘To the Spirit:

Without whose assistance

Neither this book

Nor I

Would have been Written’

– Alice Walker

You come across books that host unconventional literature; and then you come across books that enclose unconventional language. The Colour Purple is proof of the fact that by using a local dimension of the ever-dynamic English language, a story can be made incredibly authentic. And thus, in reading this book, you are not just in Africa among the Olinka tribe in words, but also in meaning.

Alice Walker is a fearless writer, who has written unfiltered accounts, reflecting the brutalities parasiting on the life of a common African-American woman. With a sense of veneration, she has approached this book by correcting the inaccurate laws of racial and religious reality that has been set up for Africans, hinting towards the theme of racial colourism.

“‘Hard times’ is a phrase the English love to use when speaking of Africa. And it is easy to forget that Africa’s ‘hard times’ were made harder by them.”

– Nettie

I’m sightless and my mind still lingers between the letters traversing between the two sisters, Celie and Nettie, to and from the American South and Africa; who were separated by a series of consequences of their being African-Americans of the early ’80s, when slavery was still in existence and also majorly, of their being females of an awfully patriarchal society. 

“I’m poor, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.”

– Celie

Celie is forcefully married at a very tender age to a man with four children only because her father wanted to get rid of her, after raping her. She is diligent and is ready to face her fate in silence and conviction that maybe one day, she would be the mistress of her own fate. She soon meets the woman she wants to be like – Shug Avery, an African sensational popstar and as the seasons pass, they become dictators of their own life, sharing a revolutionary love that is unwonted in its sexuality.

The Colour Purple symbolises a dream that was once despondent, which is now  fulfilled; a dream, too daunting to attain, now comes within reach and into the arms of the dreamer; a dream that you once nurtured in an age of innocence, is engulfing you in your chosen reality.

Do not take Alice Walker’s words for granted; she can set you on an inferno and can still manage to get you alive.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. But I don’t know how to fight. All I know is how to do is stay alive.
  2. It’s like seeing you buried, she said.
  3. Its not nice to speak ill of the dead, one say, but the truth never can be ill.
  4. I can’t remember being the first one in my own dress.
  5. His eyes were sad and thoughtful. His face begin to look like a woman’s face.
  6. The Lord don’t like ugly, she say. And he ain’t stuck on pretty.
  7. Think about heaven later.
  8. She looks like she ain’t long for this world but dressed well for the next.
  9. He clear his throat a lot, like everything he say need announcement.
  10. She probably be happy to do most of what you say if you asked her right.
  11. Life don’t stop just because you leave home.
  12. We had the kind of love that couldn’t be improved.
  13. A girl is nothing to herself; only to her husband can she become something.
  14. Tashi knows she is learning a way of life she will never live.
  15. Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.
  16. All her young life she has tried to please her father, never quite realising that as a girl, she never could.
  17. The God I have been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other men I know.
  18. Not being tied to what God looks like, frees us.
  19. I couldn’t understand why we have life at all if all it can do most times is make us feel bad.
  20. A burnt finger remembers the fire.