I’m somewhat halfway through CNA’s third book, The Thing Around Your Neck, and it feels like the first time I read it.
CNA’s 2009 collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, is a piece of work that is as timeless as all her other bodies of work. This 12-story anthology turns a probing eye on not only Nigeria but also America. It explores the ties that bind husbands and wives, parents and children, and brothers and sisters in Africa and the United States.
The opening story, Cell One, tells the story of a young boy in Enugu, Nnamabia, and the consequences of his thieving exploits. Asides from it being a story about a teenage boy stealing from his mother, it touches on sensitive, prevalent topics of cultism, corruption, prison life and a test of family values. The story gives the book a strong opening and opportunity for the readers to get excited about the prospects of the rest of the stories.
From the sunny skies in Enugu, CNA transports us to a gloomy home in Philadelphia. Through her ability to visualize worlds through words, I could feel the setting change while reading. While Nigerians in Nigeria have their numerous issues within the country, CNA shows us that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the borders. Through the second story, Imitation, we’re able to step into the lives of one half of a family living the ‘Nigerian’ dream of residing in America.
Understanding the difficulty of empathizing with the issues that come with Nigerians migrating to countries that seem to be ‘better’, Adichie helps us realize that not all is as it seems. She touches on some of the difficulties that come with living outside Nigeria.
From an intimate shower with Nkem and Obiora in the suburbs of Philadelphia in Imitation, CNA throws us into a riot in Kano in A Private Experience. We go from an intimate moment between lovers to an intimate moment between strangers. The story gives us a front-row view to the experiences of two lone victims during one of the Kano riots. The few pages of the story touch on religion, culture, and sisterhood.
Like always, CNA’s writing is confident and her words leap over each other through the pages, leaving the reader in awe of her ability to combine simplicity and elegance in storytelling. Although this is my third read, I’m elated to experience what the other stories in the book have in store.
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