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Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as "one of the b Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as "one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years" (Baltimore Sun), with "prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes" (The Boston Globe); The Washington Post called her "the twenty-first-century daughter of Chinua Achebe." Her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun became an instant classic upon its publication three years later, once again putting her tremendous gifts - graceful storytelling, knowing compassion, and fierce insight into her characters' hearts - on display. Now, in her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States. In "A Private Experience," a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she's been pushing away. In "Tomorrow is Too Far," a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother's death. The young mother at the center of "Imitation" finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.


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Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as "one of the b Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as "one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years" (Baltimore Sun), with "prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes" (The Boston Globe); The Washington Post called her "the twenty-first-century daughter of Chinua Achebe." Her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun became an instant classic upon its publication three years later, once again putting her tremendous gifts - graceful storytelling, knowing compassion, and fierce insight into her characters' hearts - on display. Now, in her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States. In "A Private Experience," a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she's been pushing away. In "Tomorrow is Too Far," a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother's death. The young mother at the center of "Imitation" finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.

30 review for The Thing Around Your Neck

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katharine

    Only because I am reading alphabetically through my library's fiction shelves, did I this book up. My self-imposed rules are that I don't read any back covers or inside flaps, I just read the first 50 pages and then decide if the book is worth finishing. Had I read the back flap, my silly prejudices would have forced me to put it down and pick up, instead, a silly rom-com. I am a white, WASP, 44 year old, egocentric American with an average education and little travel experience, it would never Only because I am reading alphabetically through my library's fiction shelves, did I this book up. My self-imposed rules are that I don't read any back covers or inside flaps, I just read the first 50 pages and then decide if the book is worth finishing. Had I read the back flap, my silly prejudices would have forced me to put it down and pick up, instead, a silly rom-com. I am a white, WASP, 44 year old, egocentric American with an average education and little travel experience, it would never occur to me to read a book of short stories by an African writer. Shame on me. How delightful that my library project has given me this gift -- The Thing Around Your Neck. These short stories were gripping, eye-opening, tragic, hopeful and universal. I loved them all. I appreciated the author's economic style, her distinct voice and her honesty. I highly recommend this book for other egocentric overfed Americans like me, especially those who want to write well. You could learn a lot, about the world, about Africa and about good writing from the author, Adichie.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the leading voices of African literature today. Her books Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus have won multiple awards and made her a respected writer of African issues. The Thing Around Your Neck is her first story collection, which weaves together tales of Nigerians in Africa and in the United States sharing the same hardships and love for their homeland. The collection commences with the story of Nnamabia who is falsely accused of running with his unive Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the leading voices of African literature today. Her books Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus have won multiple awards and made her a respected writer of African issues. The Thing Around Your Neck is her first story collection, which weaves together tales of Nigerians in Africa and in the United States sharing the same hardships and love for their homeland. The collection commences with the story of Nnamabia who is falsely accused of running with his university's gangs and thrown in jail. The father who is a university professor uses his position in the town to bribe policemen to get his son freed. The other stories that occur in Nigeria also involve either police violence, warfare during the revolution, or infighting between Christian and Muslim sects. Despite the almost constant warfare, the Nigeria that Adichie writes of is one of open air markets, joyful cultural celebrations, and a harmattan dry season during the winter that makes Nigerians abroad long to return. This is especially evident in story of the retired professor who returned from the United States and the woman at the embassy who chose to return to her family's ancestral village than seek a visa to asylum. The title story sums up Adichie's feelings for Nigerians living in the United States. American life is easy-- rich people turning down food and still leaving a tip, a sterile lifestyle devoid of culture, people obsessing with minute details that aren't even heard of in Africa. The characters in these stories all long to go back whether for an extended holiday or to live. Most were children of the wealthy class and came either for school or because they thought they could provide an even better life for their children. Yet, these children end up speaking English, wanting pizza rather than native food, and desiring to change their names. Rather than a better opportunity, the children become typical American immigrants, and the African parents feel choked, pining to return to the Nigeria that they love. Adichie's rich prose had me enthralled from the first pages. This is the first time that I have read her work, and I can see how her full length novels have won awards. Even in stories as short as ten pages, she has used vivid language to create multi-layered characters. I especially noticed this in the protagonists in Jumping Monkey Hill and The Shivering. These characters were so real and developed that I could not help feel their current life situation even after briefly reading about them. Adichie ends her collection with The Headstrong Historian, a story of three generations of Africans coping with finding a balance between Christian proselytization and preserving their culture. The women in this story love their Nigerian culture and desire that it be passed down to successive generations. This is the Nigeria that Adichie has created for me in this collection- a country rich with culture that even if she has undergone her share of hardships, is a country looking toward the future, and one that all Nigerians living abroad long to return to. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has created deep characters with her rich prose here, and I look forward to reading her full length novels. The Thing Around Your Neck easily rates 4.5 shining stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    Several years ago, Jhumpa Lahiri entranced me with her stories of the sorrows, hopes and realities of being an immigrant in the United States. Through her characters, she showed how it felt to be pushed away from your own country by oppression and poverty into another that so often treated you like a shadow. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 2009 collection That Thing Around Your Neck offers stories with these same themes, written with the same grace and power. Unlike Lahiri, however—whom I discovered Several years ago, Jhumpa Lahiri entranced me with her stories of the sorrows, hopes and realities of being an immigrant in the United States. Through her characters, she showed how it felt to be pushed away from your own country by oppression and poverty into another that so often treated you like a shadow. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 2009 collection That Thing Around Your Neck offers stories with these same themes, written with the same grace and power. Unlike Lahiri, however—whom I discovered through Interpreter of Maladies—I was already familiar with Adichie's writing, so each story serves as an invitation to delve more deeply into Nigeria's near history and the experiences of Nigerians in contemporary America. The specter of political chaos and brutal military action hangs heavily over several stories, including the opener, Cell One, in which a young woman's brother is held in jail under the threat of permanent incarceration; A Private Experience, that looks in on two women—one Christian Igbo, the other Muslim Hausa—hiding together in a shop while riots break out in the city streets around them; The American Embassy, where the reader stands in line with a woman who has just suffered an unspeakable loss and is seeking asylum in the States; and hauntingly, in Ghosts when a man meets a former colleague who he thought had been killed in the Biafran War many years ago. But all politics is personal, and Adichie's stories are most intimate when her characters appear stranded in a strange place: the United States. She presents women in various stages of acculturation, but nearly all are lonely and betrayed, betrayed by their own expectations, by men who promised them a future, as in Imitation, Arrangers of Marriage. On Monday of Last Week, one of my favorites, calls to mind a later scenario in Adichie's 2012 novel Americanah, in which an educated Nigerian woman serves as an au pair for a wealthy family, and also presents Americanah's theme of what it means to be a black African in race-sensitive America. Adichie also works through the delicate balance of literary achievement and authenticity, so brilliantly and sharply rendered in Jumping Monkey Hill, where a pan-African collective of writers gathers at a retreat in east Africa, only to be pandered to and condescended by their benefactor, a lecherous snob. The collection's final story, The Headstrong Historian, almost feels like it belongs to some other collection, for some other reader. It is set in a much younger state of Nigeria, in the early half of the 20th century, when Nigeria was still a colony. It is a tapestry of history and culture and begs to be unraveled and recreated into a much longer narrative. Adichie's themes are so relevant and contemporary (see: all politics is personal), one could almost assign her the bothersome label of "agenda writer". And she's all too aware of that pitfall—grabbing onto the label and thrusting it into her own story Jumping Monkey Hill. What separates her, makes her voice irresistible, is her gorgeous storytelling. First and foremost with Adichie, it is the story. It is those characters who breathe, hearts beating, skin warm. It is the setting, the harmattan winds that suck moisture from the very air, or the chill of autumn in America. It is what people feel, what makes them laugh and cry, what stirs their passions. Chimamanda Adichie is a sublime storyteller. Only later do you realize how much you've learned under the guidance of her strong and generous voice.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    I fell in love with Adichie's work after reading her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, around a year ago. She has a way of creating extremely well-developed characters that are vivid and flawed. She doesn't shy away from the darker sides of humanity, but all along she reminds you that there is hope and joy to be found even in little things. Each of these stories was incredibly immersive. I felt like the characters could've been contained in full-length novels, rather than in just 20 or so pages I fell in love with Adichie's work after reading her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, around a year ago. She has a way of creating extremely well-developed characters that are vivid and flawed. She doesn't shy away from the darker sides of humanity, but all along she reminds you that there is hope and joy to be found even in little things. Each of these stories was incredibly immersive. I felt like the characters could've been contained in full-length novels, rather than in just 20 or so pages. And while I didn't love every single one, there was something of merit in them all. And there were quite a few that I deeply, deeply loved and want to read over and over again. Favorites include: "A Private Experience," "Jumping Monkey Hill" (LOVED IT!!!), "Tomorrow Is Too Far," and the final story "The Headstrong Historian" (this last one is very reminiscent of Achebe, and a great concluding piece to the collection). If you are looking to get into reading short stories, or interested in Adichie's writing at all, I feel like this is an excellent place to start. While I think her novels are brilliant, I almost enjoyed diving into these small worlds for a brief moment even more enjoyable. She has a very strong sense of style that I can't quite put my finger on, but many of these stories were reminiscent of her other works. What draws me to her stories is the new perspective I almost always walk away with after reading from her. I'm introduced to a new culture and new attitudes, while still feeling familiar with the characters because she writes from an often youthful perspective. She addresses patriarchy, immigration (to American and other nations), gender, and sexuality so excellently. So if you enjoy these topics or these stories at all, I'm sure you will like her longer pieces of literature.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    The Thing Around Your Neck is a 2009 collection of short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author who has won much acclaim for her first two novels, “Purple Hibiscus” and “Half of a Yellow Sun”. These twelve stories have all been published elsewhere at different times, but are linked in that they tell the tale of an individual life, and all feel very anecdotal. Despite the variety of lives depicted, they all also feel very personal. Adichie puts a lot of herself into her stories, r The Thing Around Your Neck is a 2009 collection of short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author who has won much acclaim for her first two novels, “Purple Hibiscus” and “Half of a Yellow Sun”. These twelve stories have all been published elsewhere at different times, but are linked in that they tell the tale of an individual life, and all feel very anecdotal. Despite the variety of lives depicted, they all also feel very personal. Adichie puts a lot of herself into her stories, resulting in a heightened sense of realism. All these characters are between two cultures, and many of them have emigrated from Nigeria to the United States. Adichie herself left the university of Nigeria in order to go to university in the United States, where she completed her bachelor and masters degrees. Some of her characters have similar educational aspirations, others may be following their husbands, and some characters have moved to the United States in search of a better life. These stories, although set in Nigeria and America, remind me a little of Monica Ali’s novel “Brick Lane” (2003), in that they focus on the hope and imagined promise of being introduced to a new culture, but its ultimate disappointment. Most of these characters are women, who have one foot back at home and one foot in the new world. They are eager for new experiences, and some feel a duty to fit in and become “American” but they also want to retain their cultural identity, the essence of where they came from and what made them how they are. They resist severing ties with the old ways, and becoming subsumed into what they see as Americans. Adichie fills her stories with details of Nigerian life, names and descriptions of foods and dishes. There are many scenes depicting cooking and eating, as one lonely woman after another tries to hang on to their identity in one of life’s most basic ways, by filling the empty place inside herself with familiar food from home. Although the stories are a joy to read, and one critic has said, “She makes storytelling seem as easy as birdsong”, they are not optimistic stories, but stark portrayals, filled with loneliness and despair. Each is a perfect isolated little gem. Adichie has taken a slice of life, and moulded and crafted it into a piece where the senses are heightened, and we are aware of the detail. She includes both history and the present, and switches between tenses seamlessly, emphasising the feeling of reality. The first story in The Thing Around Your Neck is called “Cell One” . It begins, “The first time our house was robbed, it was our neighbor Osita who stole our TV, our VCR, and the Purple Rain and Thriller videotapes our father had brought back from America.” In the book’s very first sentence, then, we have a sense of disturbance, of a Nigeria which might have been. Immediately we have a sense of American influence on the young Nigerians. This is a dark tale indeed, setting the tone for the entire collection. It tells how the narrator’s brother, Nnamabia, begins to get into trouble as a teenager. He seems to go from bad to worse, stealing jewellery from his mother and being suspected of even worse things. Eventually Nnamabia is arrested, along with a group of “cult boys” who carry out gun crimes in the neighbourhood targeting one college and its professors. The narrator’s father, who is a professor and her mother, are convinced that their son is innocent, and the story describes their experiences at the hands of the police and the prison guards. We also follow also the experience of Nnamabia, who starts out bragging that he enjoys life in his prison cell, but soon changes his mind. (view spoiler)[ He is very disturbed when an old man who has done no wrong, but is there on behalf of his son, is thrown into a cell and abused. We learn about the infamous “Cell One”. Eventually Nnamabia is released back to his family, but there has been a lot of corrupt practice in order for this to happen (hide spoiler)] . Adichie suggests with this story that that individuals must stand up for their principles and help those who lack a voice or who are victims of a political system. In some ways, this is also a coming of age story. By the end of the story Nnamabia has certainly changed in his attitude and his behaviour, but the tale leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and if this is a reader’s first introduction to Nigeria, the level of crime and corruption depicted make for a sobering read. The second story is called “Imitation” . The location has switched to the United States, and the viewpoint here is that of a Nigerian woman, Nkem, a young mother who lives in New Jersey, Philadelphia. Oddly, her husband, who is an Art dealer, has settled her in this American home, which he then himself visits for only 2 months a year. While he himself has remained working in Nigeria, Nkem is finding that she sees very little of him, and instead confides in her maid who is also Nigerian.(view spoiler)[ She soon begins to think that her husband is cheating, and eventually finds out that he has installed his mistress in their Lagos home. (hide spoiler)] Although Nkem feels herself to be a cut above her cleaning woman the story focuses on the relationship between the two women. The third story is called “A Private Experience” . This story focuses on two women who are from totally different Nigerian backgrounds, as well as from different cultures and religions. Chika, the viewpoint character is a Christian, an Igbo woman, who along with her sister, Nnendi, is visiting her aunt. One day they decide to take at taxi to the market, to see a little of the ancient city of Kano outside their aunt’s neighbourhood. But they found themselves caught on the edge of a riot fuelled by religious violence, and the two have become separated. Chika is aware that she will “comb the hospital mortuaries looking for Nnedi”. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a consequence of the corruption, brutality and the ethnic violence, Adichie is saying, life and death are often reduced to a matter of luck. Chika reflects on her participation in a pro-democracy rally at the university. They chanted “the military must go! Abacha must go! Democracy now!” Now she is seeing another sort of riot. Another woman, a Hausa Muslim, urges her to hide in an abandoned shop until it is quiet. The reports of the riot maintain, “Hausa Muslims are hacking down Igbo Christians with machetes, clubbing them with stones” yet in the story two women, one from each side, are brought together in friendship, sharing conversation and advice about motherhood. “Ghosts” is the fourth story, about a retired maths professor who looks back on his life. It is the only one in this collection which is told from a male perspective, although several of the others features males as main characters. The retired professor unexpectedly runs into someone he thought was dead many years ago, and he engages the man in conversation, to find out what happened. We learn much of the history of the area, and also that(view spoiler)[ the man had, rather suspiciously, somehow escaped all the violence in the area years earlier, but he is not willing to tell the narrator how. (hide spoiler)] “On Monday of Last Week” is the fifth story, about Kamara, a Nigerian woman who has joined her husband in America. She is a professional young woman, and is bored and dissatisfied at home. Temporarily, she takes a job as a nanny to a privileged upper-class family in Philadelphia. She is surprised and excited to find herself (view spoiler)[ developing a sexual attraction to Tracy, the woman whose child she is watching. However, when some one else comes along, Tracy discards her as quickly as she picked her up. (hide spoiler)] This is mainly a story about obsessions, jealousies, and frustrated desires of many types. The sixth story is called “Jumping Monkey Hill” . The action has switched again, this time, unusually, to South Africa. It is a tale about a Nigerian woman writer, Ujunwa, who attends a writers retreat, or workshop, in Cape Town, and it is told from her viewpoint. The white man who runs the multi-racial workshop of writers, is portrayed as a very arrogant and misogynistic individual. Nevertheless, he regards himself as the true purveyor of the “African voice”. He is prejudiced and has favourites within the group, but mostly the story is concerned with Ujunwa’s conflicts and experiences, particularly at his hands. It is the most autobiographical story, and even though it has a satisfying neat twist at the end, this is still not particularly empowering. In this story Adichie criticises the political and patriarchal system in Nigeria, through the character of Ujanwa, who asks “Why do we always say nothing?” She feels exploited as a sexual chattel, conditioned to behave in a submissive way and consequently devalued. The Thing Around Your Neck, the story which gives its name to the entire collection, is the seventh story. It was first published in 1999. It is a strangled, oppressive and stultifying story, hence the title, and could be said to represent the entire collection in a sense. In it, a young woman, Akunna, wins the lottery for a much sought after American visa. Her extended family are all excited at her prospects. Her relatives tell her that soon that she will live in the land of plenty, “In a month, you will have a big car. Soon, a big house.” Of course, her actual experience is very different. She begins her life in the United States staying with her aunt and uncle, (view spoiler)[ but has to flee, leaving immediately with no prospects, because her uncle sexually abuses her. Her employers are ignorant, assuming she is Jamaican because she is black and has an accent. They take advantage of her, and pay her below the minimum wage. (hide spoiler)] Unusually, this is not told in the first person, but told in the second person, “you”. This story is perhaps the most heartbreaking. The loneliness of Akunna is palpable. We see that in common with many of the immigrants in this collection, the young woman in this story is completely isolated, aching with desperation, but unable to tell her family back to home what is really happening to her. There is a recurring image, “At night, something would wrap itself around your neck, something that very nearly choked you before you fell asleep.” (view spoiler)[Temporarily the narrator forms a relationship with a new American lover, finding that “The thing started to loosen, to let go,” but just as like many of Adichie’s female characters, she discovers that the answer to her desolation will not be found through a man. She ends up working as a waitress in Connecticut (hide spoiler)] . The eighth story is called, “The American Embassy” . This is perhaps the most heavily political story in the collection. It is said that every Nigerian has a story to tell about what happens in American Embassies. In Adichie’s story, a Nigerian woman queues for hours, applying for asylum in the United States. Her reason is simple, “two days ago, she had buried her child in a vegetable path in their ancestral town of Umunnachi” This story is set during the time when General Adache had seized power and formed a government. (view spoiler)[The woman’s husband is a pro-democracy activist, who had published a story criticising the government in a newspaper. The woman has helped him to escape and is now trying to do so herself, after her young son, Ugonna, had been murdered during questioning. Apathetically she watches the different people who are also applying for asylum, and assesses their varying motives, becoming more disgusted by the entire procedure. One man tries unsuccessfully to to engage her in conversation. When she meets with the person who is to decide her fate, a combination of an alien individual, casual indifference, and a form-filling mentality make her decide to walk away, feeling that to describe her son’s murder for the sake of a visa, would betray or dishonour his memory (hide spoiler)] . With Ugonna’s death, Adichie has given a stark and tragic example of the brutal consequences of General Abacha’s harsh, corrupt political system. She demonstrates that many of those in charge had no regard to human rights and escaped punishment, and that the regime was one of oppression, denying its citizens individual freedom. Story number nine, “The Shivering” , reverts back again to the United States. It is set on the campus of Princeton University, and is about a Catholic Nigerian woman, whose thoughts still dwell on a former boyfriend. A tragedy in Nigeria prompts another Nigerian, a stranger, to knock at her door and suggest that they pray together. The woman is embarrassed and a little alienated by his Evangelism, and different style of praying, but the two become close. The story follows their relationship, and the surprising history which is revealed. The tenth story, “The Arrangers of Marriage” , was originally published as “New Husband” . It features a newly married Nigerian woman, Chinaza, who has an arranged marriage and has moved to New York City, where her husband, a Nigerian medical student, has been living for some time. Chinaza finds that her arranged marriage in America is not the stuff of her dreams. Her husband has embraced the American way of life completely, rejecting his Nigerian identity, and has even changed his name from Ofodile Emeka Udenwa to “Dave Bell” in an eager desire to fit in. He is pretentious, and so critical of her that Chinaza finds it difficult to recognise her husband’s earlier self. Increasingly, she is unable to accept his demands that she cast off her own Nigerian identity. “Tomorrow Is Too Far” , the eleventh story, is a sort of mystery story, set in Nigeria. As we follow the story, an unnamed young woman, referred to only as “you”, reveals the devastating secret of her brother Nonso’s death at an early age. “The Headstrong Historian” the twelfth story, is a perfect ending to the collection, and perhaps my favourite, bringing the entire history of intercultural identity bang up to date. It covers several generations, involving the life-story of a woman who believes her husband had been killed by his cousins. She determines to regain the land entitlement and inheritance for her son, through his education by missionaries.(view spoiler)[ However, he is converted away from his roots, and only in the next generation does his daughter, whose birth name is Grace, and ultimately preferred clan name is Afamfuna, reclaim her Nigerian identity, and begin to set the historical record straight (hide spoiler)] . Adichie is very critical of the missionaries in this story, both Catholic and other Christians. She also criticises Nigerians who devalue their African culture, seeking Western lifestyles, views and attitudes in preference. The clear message in this story is that such behaviour leads to a lack of pride among Nigerians. It is crucial, the author tells us, that Nigerians embrace their own roots and religious practices, and celebrate their culture, rejecting any imposed values of the Christian missionaries. “The Times” newspaper said of this collection, “Stunning. Like all fine storytellers, she leaves us wanting more.” “The Independent” newspaper refers to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as, “a major new African voice”. From this brief description of each story in The Thing Around Your Neck, it is possible to see the breadth and range of her view, and the insight and compassion she has for her characters. She includes studies both of those in a troubled Nigeria, but also includes characters who have left Nigeria for a new life in the United States. All the characters in the collection’s twelve stories are struggling to determine where they belong. Where their home is, and who their people are, moulds each character’s world view, and feeds into their sense of identity. There is little optimism about these stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Varied though they are, they are all imbued with a sense of bitter loneliness and regret. Six of the stories are set in Nigeria, and for the most part they represent a Nigeria that is heavily influenced by the United States. Many of these stories explore a generation of Nigerians whose lives have been disrupted by wars and colonialism. We learn of the legacy of the Nigerian civil war otherwise known as the “Biafran War”, of 1967 to 1970. Biafra represented the nationalist aspirations of the Igbo people, whose leadership felt they could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated federal government. The war was fought to counter the secession of Biafra from Nigeria, and had resulted from political economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions, all of which preceded Nigeria’s decolonisation from Britain during 1960-1963. We also see the consequences to individuals of the brutal regime of the despot Sani Abacha, the Nigerian army general and politician, who seized power during a military coup, and who ruled Nigeria as President from 1993 to 1998, despite allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. Throughout these tales, which mostly focus on social and cultural issues faced by Nigerian individuals, we get a sense of loss, and a sense of what Nigeria might have been. Many of Adichie’s characters have to cope either directly or indirectly with the consequences of the loss of African traditions, and the exposure to Western lifestyles and values. The author criticises Nigerians who readily adopt Western lifestyles denying their own cultural traditions. She suggests that those who migrate to America often compromise their Nigerian heritage and lose part of their African identity as they try to become assimilated into a materialistic, largely white, society. Adichie’s main characters are often unable to define and articulate their anxieties about immigration, and their sense of being between two cultures. The author represents these challenges metaphorically, and brilliantly, as the “thing” around their necks. It is a powerful metaphor.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    She's the Queen, our literary Beyonce who delivers the goods with an earlier collection of short stories. You can see here the briefest of outlines that will become Americanah later. Confidently African stories told with a measured awareness of Western sensibilities. That storyteller voice that gently leads you across the page with a sharp eye and wry line. Adichie is so adept at alluding to deeper themes with a light touch that doesn't slow down your reading. If I'm going to quibble the stories She's the Queen, our literary Beyonce who delivers the goods with an earlier collection of short stories. You can see here the briefest of outlines that will become Americanah later. Confidently African stories told with a measured awareness of Western sensibilities. That storyteller voice that gently leads you across the page with a sharp eye and wry line. Adichie is so adept at alluding to deeper themes with a light touch that doesn't slow down your reading. If I'm going to quibble the stories can be somewhat jarring in their abrupt end, building steam only to be just as quickly discarded. Like songs that end sharply just as you're expecting a third verse.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The power of a voice that cares! Is there a red thread between these intense short stories, moving between continents, generations, social circumstances, religions and customs seemingly easily but leaving deep track marks in the reader's mind? Home is not a place or a culture or even specific people. Home is where your heart is hurting most because it's caring most. And that hurt is beyond gender and skin colour and religion and ritual and politics. It just is. Home. The power of a voice that cares! Is there a red thread between these intense short stories, moving between continents, generations, social circumstances, religions and customs seemingly easily but leaving deep track marks in the reader's mind? Home is not a place or a culture or even specific people. Home is where your heart is hurting most because it's caring most. And that hurt is beyond gender and skin colour and religion and ritual and politics. It just is. Home.

  8. 4 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    Shameless, brazen and lazy, I'm going to pinch the comment on the front of my edition: "Adichie makes storytelling seem as easy as birdsong." Will that do? I can add on some of those typical enthusiasms: stunning, exquisite, you know, you'll have used them yourself at some point. If you weren't entirely convinced by Adichie as a novelist (I was, fairly, but maybe not quite enough), try these short stories. They have certainly convinced me that I need to catch up with the rest of her oeuvre. Oh dea Shameless, brazen and lazy, I'm going to pinch the comment on the front of my edition: "Adichie makes storytelling seem as easy as birdsong." Will that do? I can add on some of those typical enthusiasms: stunning, exquisite, you know, you'll have used them yourself at some point. If you weren't entirely convinced by Adichie as a novelist (I was, fairly, but maybe not quite enough), try these short stories. They have certainly convinced me that I need to catch up with the rest of her oeuvre. Oh dear. And just when I was doing so well with the books already in the house.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    3.5 stars. A short story collection that is loosely linked by its emotional connections to Nigeria, I found most of the stories to be insightful and very well written. A breakdown of each story: Cell One - A story about a family who live in a closed off university town and everyone knows everyone. It centres around Nnamabia, a roguish young man who finds himself at the mercy of a brutal and violent police force following accusations of cult involvement. I liked the family dynamics in this one but 3.5 stars. A short story collection that is loosely linked by its emotional connections to Nigeria, I found most of the stories to be insightful and very well written. A breakdown of each story: Cell One - A story about a family who live in a closed off university town and everyone knows everyone. It centres around Nnamabia, a roguish young man who finds himself at the mercy of a brutal and violent police force following accusations of cult involvement. I liked the family dynamics in this one but thought it rushed the story and I didn’t get a good enough feel of the characters and setting, which lessened the overall message - ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Imitation - A Nigerian wife of a ‘Big Man’ lives in Philadelphia while her husband visits her and the children for 2 months of the year. She discovers he’s moved a girlfriend into their house in Lagos and ponders what she should do about the situation. This was an interesting look into culture, women and the dynamics of power in marriage. Again, it was very short and I felt it finished before concluding satisfactorily - ⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Private Encounter- Two women, one Christian Igbo, the other Muslim Hausa shelter together during a riot. Both have been caught out at the wrong place at the wrong time, and both have been separated from loved ones. I loved this one, and thought it was crafted masterfully to show the similarities between the two women caught in such a horrific and brutal situation and the kindness of a stranger - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Ghosts - A professor sees a former colleague he thought was long dead and ends up reminiscing about war atrocities and life after. I found this a bit disjointed in tone - ⭐️⭐️ On Monday of Last Week - A woman nannying for a little boy becomes infatuated with his artist mother after she compliments her. I enjoyed this one. It Compared childcare and privilege in America and Nigeria in a thought provoking way - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Jumping Monkey Hill - A literary retreat discusses feminism, and the treatment of women in Nigeria. Interesting but I couldn’t really connect with the characters - ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Thing Around Your Neck - Told in second perspective, this details one woman’s move to America after ‘winning’ the green card lottery. It goes into detail about the skewed views on the American dream, the stifling responsibility placed on immigrants and ‘white saviours’. I liked this one a lot, and found it to be told in an incredibly interesting point of view - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The American Embassy - A woman recounts the recent events that have led her to apply for a visa while waiting in line for an immigration interview at the American embassy in Nigeria. I found this one particularly hard hitting, and it packed an emotional punch for such a short read - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Shivering - Two Nigerian strangers in America bond over recent tragedies. The story takes a philosophical turn, recounting what it means to have faith in God amongst other things. I found this a little too theological for my taste although I loved the friendship between the two - ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Arrangers of Marriage -A newly wed comes to America to live with her arranged marriage husband. She’s instantly thrown into a new culture, without friends or family, and expected to ‘blend in’ and assimilate in order to thrive. Another thought provoking conversation on culture and Westernisation - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Tomorrow is Too Far - Another story told in second person, this time recounting a family history and it’s secrets. Again, I really enjoyed this and found it full of tension with a strong emotional pull to the characters - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Headstrong Historian - A generational tale of history, erased and reformed via faith, spirituality and a connection to ancestors. A bit slow in places, and the characters feel a little one dimensional at times - ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sokari

    What an excellent set of short stories exploring the human condition with all its flaws and neurosis. Adichie addresses the institution of marriage - arranged marriage, infidelity; same sex desire, sibling rivalry and the consequences of subordinating female children; she then intersects these with immigration and migration and interracial relationships. Each story is complete yet you feel it could also form the basis for a longer novel. Unlike many young Nigerian writers Adichie's language is u What an excellent set of short stories exploring the human condition with all its flaws and neurosis. Adichie addresses the institution of marriage - arranged marriage, infidelity; same sex desire, sibling rivalry and the consequences of subordinating female children; she then intersects these with immigration and migration and interracial relationships. Each story is complete yet you feel it could also form the basis for a longer novel. Unlike many young Nigerian writers Adichie's language is uncomplicated and every word has its place and purpose. The writing appears effortless and there are gems of insight - On America "the abundance of unreasonable hope". On white people "white people who like Africa too much and those who liked Africa to little were the same - condescending".

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)

    It’s been a few years since I’ve read Adichie’s novels, and this was a really welcome reminder of how much I enjoy her fiction. I love her prickly characters, the way she writes about resentment, the way she examines class interactions through many different angles. My vague plan was to read about 4 stories a day, but I ended up reading 9 of the 12 in the first day, which I think says it all. Like so many others, would LOVE to have another short story collection or novel from her soon.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    If you ask me who my current favourite contemporary author is I will undoubtedly answer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her writing moves me like no one else's. She writes perfectly imperfect characters who I may not always like or even respect at times, but they always feel honest. She has this amazing way of capturing both the ordinary and the extraordinary with her words and making either utterly captivating to read. Without a doubt I would recommend that you go and pick up ANY of her novels and fa If you ask me who my current favourite contemporary author is I will undoubtedly answer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her writing moves me like no one else's. She writes perfectly imperfect characters who I may not always like or even respect at times, but they always feel honest. She has this amazing way of capturing both the ordinary and the extraordinary with her words and making either utterly captivating to read. Without a doubt I would recommend that you go and pick up ANY of her novels and familiarise yourself with her literary expertise. This particular book is a collection of some of her short stories which I will review individually. ---------- Cell One "This was the season of thefts on our serene campus. Boys who had grown up watching “Sesame Street,” reading Enid Blyton, eating cornflakes for breakfast, and attending the university staff primary school in polished brown sandals were now cutting through the mosquito netting of their neighbors’ windows, sliding out glass louvres, and climbing in to steal TVs and VCRs. We knew the thieves. Still, when the professors saw one another at the staff club or at church or at a faculty meeting, they were careful to moan about the riffraff from town coming onto their sacred campus to steal." This short story tells the tale of Nnamabia through his younger sister's eyes. Nnamabia is at that age: no longer a boy but not yet a man. He is influenced by others, gets involved in antisocial behaviour and one night in a case of 'wrong place at the wrong time' he gets arrested. What follows is a story of corruption, of ill treatment and of discovering if you are someone who is willing to stand up and be counted. This is not immediately as gripping as some of the other short stories I have read by Adichie but by the end it is just as moving. three stars ---------- Imitation It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope What is love within marriage? Is it a promise of fidelity of name... but not of the body? Is it providing a house for your children... but not a home? Is it keeping up with some idea of what is right and expected of you... or is it dancing together with four left feet? At its core this story examines love. The expectations, the hopes, the dreams, the loyalties, the betrayals... As ever Adichie's prose leaves a wake of victims in her trail. No one is perfect. Hearts are torn open and innermost thoughts are laid bare for all to see. And it is these imperfections, this unrelenting frailty of humanity, that make this feel honest. four stars ---------- A Private Experience ...riots do not happen in a vacuum, that religion and ethnicity are often politicised because the ruler is safe if the hungry ruled are killing one another." This tells the story of two Nigerian women, one Igbo and Christian and the other Hausa and Muslim, that take refuge together in a shop during a riot. The images painted in this story are harsh and real. Some descriptions caught me unawares and made me feel ill but isn't that how such things should make us feel? The murderous chaos going on outside the shop is utterly terrifying and yet inside the walls of this shop there is a softness and a gentleness; a sharing of kindness between these two women who should be on opposite sides. This is a beautifully crafted short piece of writing that gives great pause for thought. four and a half stars ---------- Ghosts "...he was mourning a time immersed in possibilities. ...a man who carries with him the weight of what could have been." Are the ghosts of our pasts always with us? Even though sometimes we choose not to look back are we still forever conscious of how it is we came to be? What formed our minds, our view points? What filled our hearts. This short describes the meeting with two old men, acquaintances who had not met for years as during the Nigerian Civil War (Biafran Conflict) they had been separated. The story had the most beautiful wistful air to it. It was quiet, gentle but laden with emotion and my heart felt heavy when I finished it. four stars ---------- On Monday of Last Week A story of loneliness. Of waiting, of feeling inadequate and then having someone flip that switch inside you and feeling wanted again. This short follows a young Nigerian woman who waited for her husband to send for her to come join him in America and how the passage of time can cause you to not recognise your life anymore. three stars ---------- Jumping Monkey Hill "But why do we say nothing? ...why do we always say nothing?" This story confused me. I couldn't get into it initially. The characters didn't capture my heart or my imagination even though as the story developed some very interesting themes of how women are treated were explored. For example, what is considered to be expected from them. What they should expect themselves from life, what they should and should not say. I quite liked the ending. It felt unresolved but in that way that makes you think more about life... Not my favourite ever short story but still interesting. three stars ---------- The Thing Around Your Neck "After you told him this, he pursed his lips and held your hand and said he understood how you felt. You shook your hand free, suddenly annoyed, because he thought the world was, or ought to be full of people like him. You told him there was nothing to understand, it was just the way it was." Utterly brilliant short story describing the feelings of what it means to be a young immigrant woman in a foreign land. It has echoes of Adichie's full length novel Americanah and packs such an emotion-laden punch in a short few pages. It is brutal in its honesty and unflinching in the style of prose used. A must read! five stars ---------- The American Embassy A short story that suffered because of the impact that the previous story had on me. It took a little longer to get into but once I did it was very thought provoking. It tells the story of a woman who attends the American Embassy looking to be granted asylum and how humiliating an experience that that is. She has to plead with someone else to believe her; a stranger who does not understand her or her way of life. The guilt that eats her up when she feels like she has to use family bereavements to show that her need is just... It is a beautiful story that shows the human side of politics; the person behind the statistic. three and a half stars ---------- The Shivering "How can you love somebody and yet want to manage the amount of happiness that person is allowed?" How can a person claim to love you and yet want you to do things that suits only them? This is a beautiful short story about love and heartbreak, about faith and religion. Adichie's voice as ever is honest and her characters make you feel so much in just a few pages. The character's views on faith and religion are also wonderfully refreshing and really give great pause for thought. four stars ---------- The Arrangers of Marriage A short that explores the emotional and social implications of what happens when a young Nigerian girl is sent to America to marry what her family see as a good catch, a doctor. three stars ---------- Tomorrow is Too Far Even at 10 you knew that some people can take up too much space by simply being, that by existing, some people can stifle others. A short story woven in such a way that it feels very ethereal, other worldly even. It explores the family dynamics of favouritism. three stars ---------- The Headstrong Historian "This story ... 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 in the soul." This short looks at three generations of Nigerians. It follows the lives of Nwamgba, her son and granddaughter and shows the impact of westernisation on this one family through religious and cultural changes. It explores the undying love a mother has for her child; how she wants nothing but the best for him even if that would mean that he no longer recognises himself as being like her. How the spirits of the past affect our present, our future... How what was once important becomes the ways of the elders. How education can be biased and skewed towards a certain viewpoint. And how things come full circle. It's a very thought provoking short story that I immediately had to read again upon finishing just so I could fully take it all in as it packs quite the punch in its short few paragraphs. four and a half stars -------------------- Overall I very much enjoyed this collection of short stories and have rated it four stars ************ August 2016. Finally managed to finish this collection of shorts this morning. Favourite author taking two-ish months to read!!!!! Yeah that is one heck of a book slump! Full review to come...eventually!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    The Thing Around Your Neck is the second work of Adichie's that I've read, the first being the magnificent Americanah. This collection touches on a lot of same themes as that wonderful novel: the struggle of women in present day Nigeria, the plight of African immigrants in America. It also showcases her acute understanding of human relationships. Her stories feel important - you get the sense that you have learned something new about the world from each of them. These vibrant, lyrical tales are a The Thing Around Your Neck is the second work of Adichie's that I've read, the first being the magnificent Americanah. This collection touches on a lot of same themes as that wonderful novel: the struggle of women in present day Nigeria, the plight of African immigrants in America. It also showcases her acute understanding of human relationships. Her stories feel important - you get the sense that you have learned something new about the world from each of them. These vibrant, lyrical tales are all memorable in their own way but a few stood out for me. In A Private Experience, two women of very different backgrounds hide in a deserted store while a murderous riot rages outside. In the haunting Tomorrow Is Too Far, a woman remembers her childhood and the shocking moment that changed her life. And in the delicious Jumping Monkey Hill, the narrator attends a retreat for up-and-coming African writers, curated by a lecherous old white man (I'd love to know how much of this one is autobiographical). The short story format requires a particular set of skills: the ability to immediately involve the reader and spin a convincing, immersive tale over a reduced number of pages. Adichie proves herself a master storyteller in this collection, moving deftly from humour to tragedy, from joy to regret, with a cast of unforgettable characters. She is a unique and outrageously gifted writer, and I can't wait to read more of her.

  14. 5 out of 5

    James

    ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ is a collection of 12 stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, all of which are uniformly great, although some stronger than others. (Some of which have been previously published separately elsewhere). As with all short stories and particularly with these, almost by definition – they lack the depth, breadth and sophistication of longer novels – in this case Adichies wonderful ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, ‘Purple Hibiscus’ and ‘Americanah’. With the best of novels, the reader is ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ is a collection of 12 stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, all of which are uniformly great, although some stronger than others. (Some of which have been previously published separately elsewhere). As with all short stories and particularly with these, almost by definition – they lack the depth, breadth and sophistication of longer novels – in this case Adichies wonderful ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, ‘Purple Hibiscus’ and ‘Americanah’. With the best of novels, the reader is left generally either inspired by, but still wanting more; or entirely satiated. With short stories, more often than not there is a frustration and exasperation with their (almost by definition and out of necessity) lack of depth, characterisation and narrative development – often leaving the reader ultimately unsatisfied and disappointed. Clearly the literary skills required for writing an engaging, captivating and fulfilling short story are much different to those for writing a novel. The scope for depth and breadth, the bigger picture, in a short story must be either alluded to, hinted at, or fulfilled in an entirely different way. What Adichie does here very successfully, is to manage to create a series of wonderfully satisfying short stories – each within a fully realised world of their own. The stories not only feel effortless and have a real feeling of believability and authenticity, but Adichie has successfully managed to create stories that although short, manage to be compelling, engaging and thought-provoking – as well as being satisfying; leaving the reader wanting more in every case…what happened next? But somehow manages to do this in a way that is fulfilling to the reader. The only other short stories that I have read that manage to be so complete and so satisfying (although in an entirely different way) are many of those by Oscar Wilde. Whilst Adichie may not be quite in the same league as Wilde – it is amazing how effortlessly she creates in each case, a fully realised world, populated by such convincing characters and placed in such effective narratives – and all in so few words. Recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abbie | ab_reads

    Well, I finished my last Adichie (except for Dear Ijeweale but that's so small 😭) and now I'm upset. As usual, it was golden and now I need any hint of news around an upcoming novel - or I'd take another short story collection! . The Thing Around Your Neck is made up of 12 short stories, musing on life in Nigeria and life in America as an immigrant, or both in the same story. I think out of the 12 there was only one that didn't make much of an impression (Ghosts), all of the others completely swep Well, I finished my last Adichie (except for Dear Ijeweale but that's so small 😭) and now I'm upset. As usual, it was golden and now I need any hint of news around an upcoming novel - or I'd take another short story collection! . The Thing Around Your Neck is made up of 12 short stories, musing on life in Nigeria and life in America as an immigrant, or both in the same story. I think out of the 12 there was only one that didn't make much of an impression (Ghosts), all of the others completely swept me up. These aren't short short stories. Sometimes I read shorts that are like 4 pages long, but most of these are around the 20 page mark. Within those 20 pages, Adichie unspools lives that feel so full and real that it could have been a 200 page novel. In fact, I would read novel versions of every one of these stories without hesitation. . Some favourites: Jumping Monkey Hill, a woman navigates a writers' retreat with a troublesome host; On Monday of Last Week, a woman working as a nanny becomes fixated on the boy's mysterious artist mother who rarely emerges from the basement; The Arrangers of Marriage, a new wife struggles to adjust to life in America with her less-than-ideal new husband; and The Shivering, a woman in America grapples with news of a plane crash in Nigeria with the help of a Nigerian man in her apartment building who is harbouring a few secrets. . At the end of each story, I felt a combination of sad that it was over but also satisfied. Short stories can often leave you wanting, but a good one will make you want more of the characters while simultaneously appreciating the perfectly formed, slice-of-life story you just read. It's just greed that makes me want more, ha! . Each one reads like a tiny Adichie novel, addressing themes such as colonialism, marriage, identity, immigration, and politics. I didn't save it for last for any particular reason, and I actually think it might be a good introduction to Adichie if you haven't yet read her as it gives a great feel for her style!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I'm so thrilled that before he left this earth, Chinua Achebe blessed West Africa with a younger version of his literary self. Of her first three pieces:( Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun included) this Adichie collection seems to really highlight Achebe's influence and this is a thrilling thing to see. Compelling and witty characters, revelatory stories, and just the right amount of sensory elements to help me visualize--just how I like my short stories. Then again, Chimamanda Adichie is I'm so thrilled that before he left this earth, Chinua Achebe blessed West Africa with a younger version of his literary self. Of her first three pieces:( Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun included) this Adichie collection seems to really highlight Achebe's influence and this is a thrilling thing to see. Compelling and witty characters, revelatory stories, and just the right amount of sensory elements to help me visualize--just how I like my short stories. Then again, Chimamanda Adichie is one of my favorite writers and I always end her stories quickly. Fulfilled, yet unhappy--you know, the feeling you get when you've just exited the movie theater and the outside noise and light makes you want to go back and buy another ticket? The stories here are about the Nigerian-American experience, about the Nigerian prison system, about arranged marriages and parenting and newlyweds, about infidelity and empowerment, about individuals and their battles with life's choices. So many thematic undertones and yet because of the subtle storytelling, you don't sense an agenda. My favorites were: The Thing Around Your Neck for its poignancy when relating the immigrant experience even while using the second-person narrative: "At night, something would wrap itself around your neck, something that very nearly choked you before you fell asleep." The American Embassy because oh is this the truth. Ghosts, for everything it says and yet doesn't say about war. On Monday of Last Week because the ending was my favorite part to this story. Jumping Money Hill because it captures the writing workshop so well, even adding the type of incomprehensible light humor you grow to expect and love from Nigerian dramas: She could not tell his age from his face; it was pleasant but unformed, as though God, having created him, had slapped him flat against a wall and smeared his features all over his face.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Obida

    Buddy read with Snezana This book is a collection of short pages, my ebook copy has just 193 pages and it has 12 stories. The stories are extremely short but they are captivating. Chimamanda is such a great author, she captured the readers with her unique writing style. The stories are all written in different perspectives, two was written in second person, I'm not a second person POV fan but I loved this. The rest of the books were written in third person. The story is easy to understand and it i Buddy read with Snezana This book is a collection of short pages, my ebook copy has just 193 pages and it has 12 stories. The stories are extremely short but they are captivating. Chimamanda is such a great author, she captured the readers with her unique writing style. The stories are all written in different perspectives, two was written in second person, I'm not a second person POV fan but I loved this. The rest of the books were written in third person. The story is easy to understand and it isn't confusing but comprehensible. The stories all have something in common, all the characters are Nigerian. The focus of most of the stories is immigration, most of the characters believe that if they go to America things will turn around for good, but that isn't true, you still have to work hard, imagine their surprise when they not only have to struggle with finding work they have to struggle with racism they haven't experienced before. The time zone for most of the stories is after the Nigerian civil war so things were hard and most people wanted to escape. Only one of the stories was different and that's the last story The Headstrong Historian. The story is about three generations. The time period was the earliest years of colonization to the time of independence. This story is also my favourite of all.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    In most short story collection there are are always some stories that are better than others. Sometimes gap isn't that big (Liu's Paper menagerie and other stories, anything by Bradbury) but there are obvious favorites and weak links and there are those that involve full spectrum from bad to brilliant (any short story collection from Neil Gaiman). This is first time I read collection that I would rate every short story same. Everything is 4 stars range with no clear favorite and no clear weakest In most short story collection there are are always some stories that are better than others. Sometimes gap isn't that big (Liu's Paper menagerie and other stories, anything by Bradbury) but there are obvious favorites and weak links and there are those that involve full spectrum from bad to brilliant (any short story collection from Neil Gaiman). This is first time I read collection that I would rate every short story same. Everything is 4 stars range with no clear favorite and no clear weakest story. This is great book to get book for those who want to give Adichie's fiction a try since it showcases here writing well in small bites.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 The first thing that came to Ujunwa's mind was to ask if Isabel ever needed royal blood to explain the good looks of friends back in London. Look, I'm fully committed to rooting for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie until the Nobel Prize for Lit committee gets their collective head out of their collective ass and gives it to her (spare me the political yibble yabble. My knowing what's up hasn't killed my excitement yet, so leave me this and go ruin Santa Clause or US democracy or something of tha 4.5/5 The first thing that came to Ujunwa's mind was to ask if Isabel ever needed royal blood to explain the good looks of friends back in London. Look, I'm fully committed to rooting for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie until the Nobel Prize for Lit committee gets their collective head out of their collective ass and gives it to her (spare me the political yibble yabble. My knowing what's up hasn't killed my excitement yet, so leave me this and go ruin Santa Clause or US democracy or something of that level of fantasy for someone else), so if you're looking for an introduction to an introduction to this writer, look elsewhere. The half star up there is in context with Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, not the entirety of what I've read thus far, simply because the latter would be extremely unfair to the rest of said works. Only my absolute faves and a few superb fives à la Almanac of the Dead and The Guest would survive. Maybe. We are the educated ones, taught to keep tightly rigid our boundaries of what is considered real. This is the work whose inclusion in the reading itinerary of a particular Postcolonial Short Story class convinced me to take said class. Was it worth it? Looking back, I'd say it did a good job of kicking my ass into high gear in both the Postcolonial, a previously dabbling breed of lack of commitment, and the short story, whose unnerving brevity now has a counterbalancing of a multifarious and sometimes delightful history. In terms of the by rote stuff, I learned the PoCo is more often than not PoMo, the PoMo in a short story cycle SSC is a marvel to behold, and genre stories written in unfamiliar environments are actually quite nice when the author isn't a fetishist with a dictionary looking for that next cash cow. Sure, the nonfetishist author may also be looking for that next cash cow, but the thing about capitalism is you can't expect a cookie everytime you mock the aspects that you personally don't adhere to body and soul. Postcolonial works written by those equipped with an inheritance of the economic type seems a bit of an oxymoron, yes? Bit self-defeating? I work only with the margin that's centered enough to reach my gaze, but if every transitory beckoning every so often reaches the quality of Adichie, I can work with that. Grace would ponder this story for a long time, with great sadness, and 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. I feel the need to include the standard short story run down for the first time for whatever reason, so here goes, complete with quotes around the ones the class chose to peruse: "Cell One" - 3/5 Imitation - 3.5/5 A Private Experience - 4.5/5 Ghosts - 4/5 "On Monday of Last Week" - 4/5 "Jumping Monkey Hill" - 4.5/5 "The Thing Around Your Neck" - 4/5 "The American Embassy" - 4.5/5 The Shivering - 3.5/5 The Arrangers of Marriage - 4/5 Tomorrow is Too Far - 4.5/5 "The Headstrong Historian" - 5/5 My average of the class assigned is a smidge higher than the ones I read on my own, but the class also has the greatest range of scores and has both the best and the worst according to my personal feeling. Anyway, "The Headstrong Historian" is phenomenal, so I will look more kindly on the good intentions of the academic slicing and dicing this one time. For those new to Adichie, if you liked her Nigerian stories, pick up Half of a Yellow Sun, especially if "A Private Experience" resonated. If you liked the America, go the somewhat obvious but still great Americanah way. If you want me to butt out, tackle Purple Hibiscus, which I haven't read and as a result you must get back to me about.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Puck

    Wow, what a beautiful collection of short stories! This was my first book by the praised Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and now I can understand why so many people have fallen in love with her writing. Her style is so mesmerizing and touching that you’ll have no problem getting attached to her characters, no matter how flawed these people might be or how different their lives are from yours. “I was happy when I saw your picture,” he said, smacking his lips. “You were light-skinned. I had to think Wow, what a beautiful collection of short stories! This was my first book by the praised Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and now I can understand why so many people have fallen in love with her writing. Her style is so mesmerizing and touching that you’ll have no problem getting attached to her characters, no matter how flawed these people might be or how different their lives are from yours. “I was happy when I saw your picture,” he said, smacking his lips. “You were light-skinned. I had to think about my children’s looks. Light-skinned blacks fare better in America.” In The Thing Around Your Neck you’ll find 12 short stories written by Adichie over the past few years that are often centered around the same topics. Immigration, racism, oppression, the consequences of colonialism in Nigeria (and other African countries), the patriarchy, and sexuality are the most common. Adichie’s characters struggle with these topics in their lives, and while not all of them get a happy ending, there is always a sort of silver lining present. “He said you were wrong to call him self-righteous. You said he was wrong to call only the poor Indians in Bombay the real Indians. Did it mean he wasn’t a real American, since he was not like the poor fat people you and he had seen in Hartford?” Among my favorites are “Imitation”, “A Private Experience”, “On Monday of Last Week”, “Jumping Monkey Hill”, and “The American Embassy.” Especially “The Thing Around Your Neck” and “The Headstrong Historian” felt very personal, like they were based on Adichie’s own life experience. They tell the story of how white supremacy affected the lives of Africans – whether they are an native African or living in America – and how hard it is to find pride in yourself and your culture while people constantly try to tear it down. So if you, like me, want to get introduced to Adichie’s writing, or if you want to read a captivating short-stories collection that tackles sensitive topics in a beautiful way, than you should definitely pick this book up. I now can’t wait to read more from Adichie in the future. “Are you writing about your father?" the Kenyan asked and Ujunwa answered with an empathic NO because she had never believed in fiction as therapy. The Tanzanian told her that all fiction was therapy, some sort of therapy, no matter what anybody said.”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    4.5 stars rounded up An excellent set of short stories which concentrate mostly on the lives and experiences of Nigerian women; ranging over issues such as tragedy, political and religious violence, new relationships (especially marriage), loneliness, sadness, displacement and the many problems of post colonialism. There is plenty of social and political comment, but it is wrapped up in human stories. The stories move between Nigeria and the US; the homeland and what is seen to be the Promised La 4.5 stars rounded up An excellent set of short stories which concentrate mostly on the lives and experiences of Nigerian women; ranging over issues such as tragedy, political and religious violence, new relationships (especially marriage), loneliness, sadness, displacement and the many problems of post colonialism. There is plenty of social and political comment, but it is wrapped up in human stories. The stories move between Nigeria and the US; the homeland and what is seen to be the Promised Land, but seldom is. Two of the stories are in the second person, which is quite unusual. The plain style of the writing better illustrates the subtlety of motivation. There are insights which are sharp and to the point. In the title story, the narrator meets a young white man: “He told you he had been to Ghana and Uganda and Tanzania, loved the poetry of Okot p’Bitek and the novels of Amos Tutuola and had read a lot about sub-Saharan African countries, their histories, and their complexities. You wanted to feel disdain, to show it as you brought his order, because white people who liked Africa too much and those who liked Africa too little were the same—condescending.” Adichie focuses primarily on the Igbo/Biafran experience; unsurprising as this is her background. In each of the endings is a suggestion of a new beginning. The characters create empathy in the reader because they speak of our own hopes and fears as well. Adichie seems to have a passion for human progress and freedom and it is infectious. I’m not going to analyze the stories; just recommend you read them. I think the last one is the best, but would have benefitted from full length treatment. There are echoes of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, but with Adichie’s feminist twist.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Resh (The Book Satchel)

    The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of 12 short stories, focusing mainly on the lives and experiences of middle class Nigerian women (save for one story, Ghosts that has a male narrator) who are caught up in political or religious violence or coping with unhappy marriages, or faced with unexpected disappointments etc My favourite story is A Private Experience, in which a Christian medical student seeks shelter with a poor Muslim woman during a religious riot. Their kinsmen (Igbo and Hausa The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of 12 short stories, focusing mainly on the lives and experiences of middle class Nigerian women (save for one story, Ghosts that has a male narrator) who are caught up in political or religious violence or coping with unhappy marriages, or faced with unexpected disappointments etc My favourite story is A Private Experience, in which a Christian medical student seeks shelter with a poor Muslim woman during a religious riot. Their kinsmen (Igbo and Hausa respectively) are fighting against each other outside. During the time they share shelter, they exchange stories and offer their expertise to help the other. A stream of humanism in a background of riots is an excellent take on the situation. Theme - All the stories are about being suffocated by something, be it tradition or violence or marital discord etc. In some, the protagonist confronts the situation. In some they are left standing at the crossroads. Read a full review as well as my take on the different stories in the collection here- http://www.thebooksatchel.com/shorts-...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marieke

    I'm not typically a short story reader, especially in collections like this. But having read both of Adichie's novels (and loved them), i was curious to see how i would fare with her stories. I decided to read one per day during my lunch break, and after two days i was looking forward each day to the next story. Normally when reading a novel i look forward to finding out what happens next. My experience in the past with short stories is that i have struggled to read back-to-back stories by the s I'm not typically a short story reader, especially in collections like this. But having read both of Adichie's novels (and loved them), i was curious to see how i would fare with her stories. I decided to read one per day during my lunch break, and after two days i was looking forward each day to the next story. Normally when reading a novel i look forward to finding out what happens next. My experience in the past with short stories is that i have struggled to read back-to-back stories by the same author...I think because the theme changes and i typically can't read two novels by the same author in a row. But interestingly, i found myself looking forward each day to the next story because i wanted to know about what topic or theme Adichie would write about next. She writes in a deceptively simple style that deals with a variety of complicated topics. She has assumed a rather ambassadorial role for African literature in the West (i mean that as a compliment to her). She pulls no punches while swiftly exposing Western prejudices and ignorance for what they are, yet without condescension. At least i didn't sense condescension--aggravation, yes. and some of her descriptions will make you squirm with discomfort when you recognize yourself or your friends or your community in them. I think this type of evocative and provocative writing is important and I hope as Westerners become more familiar with contemporary African literature, we will finally begin to shed our misperceptions of the continent.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I can barely begin to explain the catharsis of reading Adichie's prose. In particular, I am captivated by the way her stories respond to the expectations of "ethnic fiction" and "African fiction," as genres full of Third-world starvation and refugees. She deftly handles subjectivities of black African positionality, facets of identity which the market would slam as "inauthentic," or "not African enough." Her stories are delightfully astute, her characters cracking the lenses by which one might e I can barely begin to explain the catharsis of reading Adichie's prose. In particular, I am captivated by the way her stories respond to the expectations of "ethnic fiction" and "African fiction," as genres full of Third-world starvation and refugees. She deftly handles subjectivities of black African positionality, facets of identity which the market would slam as "inauthentic," or "not African enough." Her stories are delightfully astute, her characters cracking the lenses by which one might expect to view Nigeria. And they do not rely on resistance to justify their being; they are strong enough to simply exist. Despite feeling wrung out at the end of some stories, I plowed through the collection in a day. I just ordered one of her novels, and am anxious to read more.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kinga

    I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is my more famous Nigerian alter-ego. These stories might not be literary perfect but they completely match my sensibilities. They touch on the same themes that haunt me and my sad attempts at writing - disappointment, self-consciousness, the immigrant experience on the very personal, intimate level. Each story meant something to me and it would be hard for me to find the one that was my least favourite. I loved those that described the cultural foundation as sha I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is my more famous Nigerian alter-ego. These stories might not be literary perfect but they completely match my sensibilities. They touch on the same themes that haunt me and my sad attempts at writing - disappointment, self-consciousness, the immigrant experience on the very personal, intimate level. Each story meant something to me and it would be hard for me to find the one that was my least favourite. I loved those that described the cultural foundation as shaky ground shifting under your feet and offering little support. While I liked them all (being Adichie's mental twin and all), I can understand that to some people some of the stories might lack depth and lasting impact. I felt I always knew what she was trying to say even those times when she failed in delivery. Even if it is not going to become your favourite collection of short stories, it is definitely worth reading because it offers a unique insight into Nigerian reality.

  26. 4 out of 5

    K.

    4.25 stars. Good Lord, this collection of short stories is beautifully written. They're all compelling. They're all full of wonderful characters. They're all incredibly full of emotion. Every single one of them felt like it could have been fleshed out into a full length novel. And all of them had such an incredible sense of place and community and the immigrant experience. Glorious, from start to finish. 4.25 stars. Good Lord, this collection of short stories is beautifully written. They're all compelling. They're all full of wonderful characters. They're all incredibly full of emotion. Every single one of them felt like it could have been fleshed out into a full length novel. And all of them had such an incredible sense of place and community and the immigrant experience. Glorious, from start to finish.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    My third by Adichie this year, and an ideal follow-up to Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah because it reworks or anticipates themes and settings from both novels. For instance, the former was in my mind while reading “Ghosts,” in which a retired mathematics professor meets an old colleague he assumed had died during the Biafran War. “Cell One” and “A Private Experience” picture a Nigeria rife with violence and rioting. The missing are presumed dead and the imprisoned are in danger of being ‘di My third by Adichie this year, and an ideal follow-up to Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah because it reworks or anticipates themes and settings from both novels. For instance, the former was in my mind while reading “Ghosts,” in which a retired mathematics professor meets an old colleague he assumed had died during the Biafran War. “Cell One” and “A Private Experience” picture a Nigeria rife with violence and rioting. The missing are presumed dead and the imprisoned are in danger of being ‘disappeared’. I was reminded of Americanah while reading “Imitation” and “On Monday of Last Week,” in which Nigerian women in Philadelphia tire of submission to their husbands and make their own life changes. Characters hope to win the visa lottery to the USA, adjust to an arranged marriage, fret over a plane crash back home, or dare to speak out about mistreatment of women. African-American women’s freedom is attractive by comparison. The final story, “The Headstrong Historian,” has the most expansive sense of time: it opens in what feels like an ancient tribal setting – before the next generation attended Anglican mission school. A third-generation character rescues her family’s story, reclaiming her African heritage while taking advantage of Western education. I was especially charmed by two stories in the second person, including the title story, which refers not to a necklace but to a burden of depression. There’s not a dud among the dozen here. Adichie has won me as a loyal fan. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Monika

    CHIMAMANDA. A name that I heard three years ago. A name that I was trying so desperately to get familiar with. A name, to be honest, I fell in love with instantly. It is also a name that I found on Facebook during a time when she had written what I consider to be her masterpiece. Along with all that, it is also a name that I am glad I didn't try to read three years earlier because had I read her then, I know I would have pretended to like her words because I knew she was 'cool'. I received The T CHIMAMANDA. A name that I heard three years ago. A name that I was trying so desperately to get familiar with. A name, to be honest, I fell in love with instantly. It is also a name that I found on Facebook during a time when she had written what I consider to be her masterpiece. Along with all that, it is also a name that I am glad I didn't try to read three years earlier because had I read her then, I know I would have pretended to like her words because I knew she was 'cool'. I received The Thing Around Your Neck as a birthday present from a 'friend' whose friendship, unfortunately, didn't last long. Chimamanda did, though. I don't remember ever thinking about why I wasn't picking her up even though her book was waiting to be read. Her art of simplified truances were not for me. Now, the story is different. Books have taught me a lot and I have matured enough to bask in the sinful glory of a dreamless haze; sinful because how can someone, in a language that is being used everyday, create something as mesmerizing and as private as this? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, is, for me, like a fabled dream. African cultures have always drawn me towards themselves. The sheer monopoly with which writers from Africa or those of African origin carve their stories and tales in words is something with which I will be always biased. It is the history of slavery that had first drawn me to African writings and it is the same history of slavery, of oppression, of British colonialism and of the neo-colonialism that constantly perpetuates strength in me. African history is a history that taught me there is more to 'national' and 'cultural' history than what we generally see. This book of short stories contain twelve short stories by Adichie. There is something about short stories that I both like and dislike - like the gorgeousness of pain, it stays and tingles long after the effect becomes invisible to the peering eyes. Be it the growing up of a boy in Cell One or the opaqueness of future of The American Embassy, the ghosts of Ghost or the contracts of The Arrangers of Marriage, the freedom of The Jumping Hill or the hate of Tomorrow Is Too Far - I want to carry it all. I want to carry Nkem's hopefulness, Chika's searchful eyes, 'you''s nothingness, Udenna's memories, Kamara's cage and Afamefuna's courage. I wish I had it in me to carry all of it but I know that I am too weak to bear all the weight. This short story collection needs to be read by all of us. If it is possible, I'd even say that it needs to be re-read if you could spare a few moments to it. It is devastating, chilling, nauseating and yet it is so beautiful and glorious that it wouldn't part away with your skin. Read it. You must.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has that rare ability to portray the contradictions of the human condition. Over and over again, she returns to themes of exile, homesickness, and alienation. In the title story, the young narrator gains a prized American visa and goes to her uncle’s home in Maine. “They spoke Igbo and ate garri for lunch and it was like home until your uncle came into the cramped basement where you slept and pulled you forcefully to him…” recalls the barely-adult girl. Again, in Arrange Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has that rare ability to portray the contradictions of the human condition. Over and over again, she returns to themes of exile, homesickness, and alienation. In the title story, the young narrator gains a prized American visa and goes to her uncle’s home in Maine. “They spoke Igbo and ate garri for lunch and it was like home until your uncle came into the cramped basement where you slept and pulled you forcefully to him…” recalls the barely-adult girl. Again, in Arrangers of Marriages, a young bride discovers that all is different in America when her new husband tells her, “You don’t understand how it works in this country. If you want to get anywhere you have to be as mainstream as possible. If not, you will be left by the roadside.” And in Imitation: “She does miss home, though, her friends, the cadence of Igbo and Yoruba and pidgin English spoken around her…” Home is a complex place. The protagonists, mostly young, mostly female, are often a long way from home, both figuratively and literally. Many have fled or want to flee because of violence – a young woman whose four-year-old son was killed before her eyes, for instance, in The American Embassy. But America, in most instances, is not a panacea. A dream of a college education is traded in for the reality of a waitress job. A man whom is chosen by one woman’s family -- “A doctor in America! What could be better?” – is, in reality, a pretentious idiot who insists she speak proper English, change her name, and eat in fast food courts. And so most of Adichie’s characers precariously straddle two worlds. Yet what shines forth is the resilience of the women who take destiny in their own hands and remain unbowed. We meet women who flee from uncomfortable situations with their dignity intact. In Monkey Hill, for example, the protagonist – a writer – is challenged that her character would not give up a lucrative job because she was a “woman with no other choices.” She reflects, “The only thing I didn’t add in the story is that after I left my coworker and walked out of the alhaji’s house, I got into the Jeep and insisted that the driver take me home because I knew it was the last time I would be riding in it.” One of the most affecting stories in this collection, to my mind, is the first story, Cell One, a harrowing tale of the narrator’s brother, who is arrested n a roundup of gang suspects and sent to jail. That story ends, “It would have been so easy for him, my charming brother, to make a sleek drama of his story, but he did not.” The same might be said about Ms. Adichie, who forgoes the drama for solid story-telling.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adira

    As usual, Adichie didn't disappoint. As usual, Adichie didn't disappoint.

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