The best perk of my job is meeting authors that I love and admire. Last night I had the pleasure of meeting two, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Binyavanga Wainaina. Adichie read from her latest book, The Thing Around Your Neck, a short story titled “The Shivering.” After her reading Wainaina engaged her in conversation about the story, asking her about the love aspect of the story, the relationship. She said it’s all about love. “I love love!” Adichie talked about the pressure of being a Nigerian writer, being political or making a statement, but saying it’s really all about love. My heart smiled. I am reading Half of a Yellow Sun and although it is about the Nigerian-Biafra War in the late 1960s, the stories are largely about love, between men and women, sisters, friends, parents and children. I can’t put it down because I want to know how all of their relationships evolve amidst the chaos that surrounds them. There is a universal truth in these pages, that we are all part of a larger social construct all the while carrying our hearts in our hands and sharing it with people we hope will be kind to it. Here twin sisters, Kainene and Olanna talk about their boyfriends.
“Richard doesn’t know anybody in Nsukka, so maybe you could introduce him to your revolutionary lover.” Olanna smiled. Revolutionary lover. The things Kainene could say with a straight face! “I’ll introduce them,” she said. She had never liked any of Kainene’s boyfriends and never liked that Kainene dated so many white men in England. Their thinly veiled condescension, their false validations irritated her. Yet she had not reacted in the same way to Richard Churchill when Kainene brought him to dinner. Perhaps it was because he did not have the familiar superiority of English people who thought they understood Africans better than Africans understood themselves and, instead had an endearing uncertainty about him – almost a shyness.