New Favorite Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In which Carrie is thrilled about an author found by sheer luck…

But I’m a little sad that she hasn’t written more than two books.  Chimamanda Adichie spoke on TED and I happened to be surfing for whatever inspiration or knowledge I needed that day.  Here is what I found:


I’d become interested in storytelling, or, “The Narrative,” since I began attending Socrates Cafe meetings in Portland.  Like a good student I read Christopher Phillips’s book by the same name in February 2010, and later wanted to integrate my learnings everywhere.  It was in these philosophical discussions which examined the content of a voted upon question using a five-principled model for reasoning in discourse, that I discovered the importance of the narrative.

In her book, Adichie does one of the most lovely things I’ve seen in awhile…if ever.  I appreciate complexity in literature.  Not the plot-ladenness like in Steig’s novels which reminded me of reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina times three in one month, but a well formed symphony of perspective.

Adichie does just this in Half of a Yellow Sun.  Never would I have imagined that yesterday I would be playing amateur lichenologist and then today curled with a hefty novel set in 1960’s Nigeria.  I think about Nigeria about as often as I think about cooking a meal for twenty or the artworks on the inside of my neighbors’ living rooms.  And yet, now that I have come across this delightful story which promises to speak of a major war I had never even heard of, I am reminded of philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s encouraging paraphrase of  Wayne Booth’s words regarding the promises literature brings.

From The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction: ” A literary work, he writes, is, during the time one reads it, a friend with whom one has chosen to spend one’s time.  The question now is, what does this friendship do to my mind? What does this new friend ask me to notice, to desire, to care about? How does he or she invite me to view my fellow human beings?”

It strikes me as odd when people question how much I read, as though this form of spending time is inferior to other ways in which people make meaning of their lives.  One of my meaning-making activities is devouring books, absolutely eating them, and, just to brag a little, I have really excellent taste in literature.  This is incontestable, though some of the people in my bookclub try.

I’m just thrilled that I’ve found this novel which tells an interweaving narrative of three different characters living amongst each other.  I’m zealously jealous of the professors who meet at the collegiate home of Olanna and Odenigbo.  I see the young houseboy’s affection for his Master, Olanna’s trust in her inner and outer beauty, and the humility of the Englishman, in love with Igbo-Ukwa art, who is invited into this elite group discussing, namely, Nigeria politics.  It makes me crave dialogue like this, like the narratives I’d heard at Socrates Cafe, and yet I can watch these weaving stories safely from Oregon, in my college insignia-ed sweatpants, and feel my world picture broaden with each page by a clever and compassionate author.  It is also amazing to notice what her characters eat.  Eating is always intriguing in novels.

If only there was some way I could make Chimamanda Adichie know how much happiness her story is filling me with as it helps me understand the danger of one story and teaches me what good writing is like.

So now, back to it, though I can tell this will bring sadness at its ending. At least there is also Purple Hibiscus next…


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