Sunday, January 07, 2007

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Reads

I attended a reading of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book Half of a Yellow Sun.

Friday's reading was held at Quintessence. I wondered where we would all sit. The store is filled with books, arts and crafts. I found out soon enough. In the inner room, where most of the paintings and woodwork are displayed, is where we sat. Stools had been arranged around and in-between the merchandise. In many cases, we were actually sitting on the merchandise (beautifully carved stools).

Chimamanda read from the beginning of the book - to my great relief. I was worried that she would read from somewhere near the end or from the second half of the book that I had not gotten to yet. It's always such an interesting experience to have an author read aloud the words that he or she has written. Sometimes it makes you interpret a particular passage in a different way from how you saw it when you read.

It is always so fascinating to discover the variety of perspectives on a single book. 'Yellow Sun was no exception and in the Q&A session and discussion that followed, we realised how so many aspects of the book were subject to interpretation. You'd have one reader saying "I saw it like this ......" and others shaking their heads in vigorous disagreement. "No, not at all! I thought what was happening was this ....".

Chimamanda was sharp, funny and insightful, I thought. She was also very warm. I commented that it was obvious that she had done a lot of research for the book and wondered how she managed to convert so much research into something so readable. She replied that there was so much she had that wanted to use, but had to throw out. Ultimately, the characters had to drive the story and not the research drive the story and that meant many, many re-writes. The book took 4 years to write and she doesn't think she will be working on any more historical fiction.

Afterwards, we talked about hair (but, of course). We both have natural hair and I had just done mine into kinky twists. We talked about the types of reaction we get from hairdressers, who express anything ranging from dismay to disgust and utter bewilderment at our decision to wear our hair natural.

"But, Aunty, why you no wan pam ya hair?"

Like natural hair isn't what we were born with? Why should it be so difficult to understand a decision to stay that way?

Back to Chimamanda, the book has been a great read so far (Yes, still reading it. I'm not a slow reader usually. Just so many things to do lately.) And the reading was loads of fun. If you have read the book or even if you haven't - but like Chimamanda's work, or are interested in the Biafran War, or just want to discover a new writing talent - then I urge you to go if you can.


Funmi said...

Half a yellow sun is definately a good read. Read it over the holidays and was quite upset when i got to the end of the book (i had gotten abit attached to it)Did Chimamanda hint about any upcoming projects?

Frances Uku said...

hey girl, i've missed you! sorry i have been silent of late, but my rss reader went a little wonky over christmas, so i had no idea you'd actually been posting all this time. thanks for the scoop on chimamanda @ quintessence - i picked it up in jand and blazed through 3/4 of it in no time at all. i'm actually rationing out pages now so i can postpone the inevitable. not for a long time have i have got so invested in a story! i bet i'm not the only nigerian who knew next to nothing about THE WAR before "Half of A Yellow Sun". it is not in our collective nature to appreciate our own (hair or artists for that matter), but abeg i must say this girl has really outdone herself with this one. brava!

Nkem said...

"But, Aunty, why you no wan pam ya hair?"

That is exactly how they think. The idea that someone wants to keep their hair natural is absoutely beyond them. I'm pleased you've described her as "warm", because she tends to get stick from Nigerias for being aloof.

I got the book, but gave it to someone who I felt would want to read it. She loves it. So I'll get it from her and read it.

Anonymous said...

HALF OF A YELLOW SUN makes for good reading, no doubt about it. I'm still reading it though cos I had to lend a friend of mine and wait for her to finish before I got it back. Anyway, Chimamanda will be reading again at Jazzhole, Ikoyi, today at 5p.m. I'll definitely be there to hear her and get my copy of the novel autographed by her!