Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Book launch: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Look who's back! For those of you who don't recognize her, this folks, is the author of one of my all time favorite reads, "Purple Hibiscus". Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is back with the epic "Half of a Yellow Sun" "Half of a Yellow Sun" is the extraordinary story of the Ibo people's fight to form the independent nation of Biafra. The war of secession began in 1967 after thousands of Ibo were massacred and driven out of northern Nigeria by the Hausa, another ethnic group. When the fighting ended nearly three years later, as many as 2 million people were dead, most of starvation and disease. This is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all.

The launch was co-sponsored by Random House and The Centre for Women and Trans People at U of T (part of the "20th Anniversary Writer Series"), admission was free and there was a table laden with some really wonderful food. I tried everything that looked foreign to me and that included some cassava, fried banana with beans and a lovely brown grain rice. I also enjoyed the beef patties which I think are Caribbean in origin.

Chimamanda was introduced by none other than Michael Ondaatje who told us that Chinua Achebe was absolutely right when he described her thus: "new writer, but ancient storyteller"



Chimamanda, as you can see, is a really pretty lady. She read from the first chapter of her book and the narrative grabbed me immediately, after that she took questions from the audience. I would say there were about 50 of us (maybe more) and as in most cases, the audience was mostly made up of women. I struck up some really nice conversations with the ladies on either side of me, both of whom had lived in Nigeria for a few years when they were younger and were very keen to read this remarkable novel.

In the question and answer session I found Chimamanda to be incredibly eloquent, engaging, interesting and friendly. She said she was inspired to write this novel because she believes that there is a lot of misinformation with regard to the Nigeria-Biafara war. People in Nigeria don't like to speak about it and it is not taught in school. Both her grandfathers lost their lives in the war and till today Chimamanda's mother has trouble speaking about the time her father was in a refugee camp. I get the feeling that by writing about it, the author has been able to confront her history and that of her people.

When asked if she has a schedule to write to, she said she writes when the words come and usually at night when everything is silent. She joked that when the words don't arrive, she climbs into bed and cries!

Someone wanted to know how she felt about her book being described as a successor to such twentieth-century classics as Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" and Chimamanda said laughingly that Chinua Achebe is probably the only Nigerian author known to people in North America and thus she is always compared with him, but she also quipped that her family lives in Achebe's childhood home and she's probably imbibed some of his vibes.

For more on the book, do listen to an interview the author gave BBC 4 HERE

For a Nigerian blogger's review on "Half of A Yellow Sun", please go HERE

I will post a longer review once I'm done reading the book and I will also try to post something about "Purple Hibiscus".



24 comments:

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Lotus,
I met Chmamanda in London last year. I was very happy to see England make a big fuss of her. They love her! They loved her first nove, Purple Hibiscus! She was nominated at the time for the Orange Prize for Fiction for Women.
Is that a picture of you, Lotus? You have an enchanting smile and are very pretty.

love

Saaleha said...

Ditto Susan. now she's going to have creeps bombarding her blog.

but , sigh, another to add to the list. i want to...aaargh!!

sob, torture, just torture.

Susan Abraham said...

Oh...oh....

Lotus Reads said...

Sweet Suse How lovely to wake up to such a wonderful comment, thank you! :))) Isn't Chimamanda Adichie just the sweetest thing? And yes, you're right, with the huge Nigerian population in the UK, I am sure she has a huge fan following both, among them and other readers. I can't wait to come to one of your book signings, Suse...it's coming, it's coming, better get ready! :)

btw, Suse, I commented on your book meme early yesterday morning, but when I checked last night, poof, it seemed to have vanished. I was too tired to write you another one, but I will today.

*hugs*


Hi Saaleha! The only reason I allowed myself to be included in the picture is because I look frightening enough to ward off any evil eye hovering around Chimamanda! ;) But thank you, your words put a broad smile on my face! :)

Susan Abraham said...

Hi dear Lotus, Adichi's popularity lies with the Brits far more than the Nigerians in England.

Lotus Reads said...

Thanks for that Suse, I'm very curious as to how her new book is doing in the UK - have you heard anything yet? I'm pretty sure it's doing brilliantly. I'm also curious to see how it will fare in her home country, the topic of the book being what it is, it should be interesting to see how they accept it. I think it will be released there next month.

Susan in Italy said...

Looks like an intriuging book. How cool that you got to meet Adichie in person!

jenclair said...

I love the description Ondaatje used: "new writer, but ancient storyteller." Not all writers, even successful and talented writers, are deserving of the title "storyteller." Although I was already interested in this book, Ondaatje's words and Chimamanda's comment (even jokingly) about climbing into the bed and crying when the words don't come--cinched it for me.

My Talking Beginnings said...

Cheers lotus reads for this. I am a young Nigerian fan of Adichie's immensly proud of the work. Glad you think the same!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Susan!

Yes, it was very exciting for me! Hope I'm not turning into a literary groupie or anything! :))


Hello jenclair How lovely to see you here. Actually Ondaatje was quoting Chinua Achebe; it was Achebe who described the young author thus...and yes,it is high praise indeed to be referred to as a storyteller!


Hello mtb! Hope you won't mind my using the acronym of your blogger name. You should be proud indeed, Adichie, is a fine young writer and I look forward to many,many more outstanding books by her. Would you like to suggest some other contemporary Nigerian writers whose works I can explore? Rosemary Esehagu comes to mind - have you read the wonderful "Looming Fog"?

Carl V. said...

How exciting for you! It is a great experience to be able to meet and listen to one's favorite author. I got to do that last year at this time. I'm really happy for you and glad that it ended up being such a wonderful experience.

Susan Abraham said...

Lotus, can only tell when I get back to London. Is this book just out? I'd be able to tell you from the bookstores & reviews in papers or magazines like Waterstone's Quarterly & The Bookseller UK or just from observing the buzz in the book world.

Beloved dreamer said...

How lucky you are Lotus my dear to have the chance to meet Her.
Also thanks for your kinds words as always.
The trouble I was having was having posting was with AOL.com. Which did not work well on Blogspot.com. I am now using, for the blog posts IE.

love,M

J said...

Hmmm. Looks like another book to add to my Amazon wish list and hope to receive at Christmas. ;)

I loved "Things Fall Apart", so praise from Achebe would be high praise indeed. I named my car after him...I hope he wouldn't be offended by that.

anna said...

Hey Lotus, returning the visit!
How fortunate you are to meet
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I shall have to pick up her book -she sounds fascinating! and Michael Ondaatje. I am so jealous!
will be back when I have more time to poke around.

Lotus Reads said...

Hello Carl Yes, it's always such a thrill to meet an author whose work you admire. I'd love to know who you met.

Suse Her book's been out in the UK for a while now, but I'm not sure how long. I don't have subscriptions to any of those magazines, do you?

Beloved Glad your problems are all solved! :)

Hi J You know, I haven't yet read 'When Things Fall Apart'...there are just too many books and so little time, when will we ever get to read everything we want to? And LOL@ you calling your car Achebe! My father called his "Lorna Doone"!

HiAnna Sure, would be delighted to have you return!

Carl V. said...

Neil Gaiman last year at this time in Chicago. It was a very cool experience.

paris parfait said...

What a treat! I got the book but haven't read it yet.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Carl, I thought he might be the one! :)


Hi ParisParfait, just the right book to take with you to Spain, no, maybe not, it reads a little like non-fiction also, it's rather weighty. Do read it when you get back though, I'm really enjoying it.

booklogged said...

Lotus, tis a beautiful picture of you and Miss Adichie. When do we get the time to read all the books we want to? I bought Purple Hibiscus, but haven't read it yet. So I appreciate your review because it brings it back to the forfront of my thinking. Half of a Yellow Sun sounds great. I like how both books have colors in the titles.

Anonymous said...

Congrats,

You beat the N.Y. Times review by at least a week!

Grumpy

uknaija said...

I'm another Nigerian fan of Chimamanda's...thanks for featuring her on your blog. i met her at a Purple Hibiscus event in London last year or the year before and she is all you say...

As to other Nigerian writers- check this post on my blog

http://uknaija.blogspot.com/2005/10/contemporary-nigerian-writing-reading.html

Lotus Reads said...

Hello booklogged How observant you are! It didn't occur to me that both her titles had colors in them! "Purple Hibiscus" is a fabulous read! Be warned, however, it's not one of those warm,fuzzy reads - be prepared to be disturbed, indignant and upset, but, on the good side, you'll be hungry for more of Chimamanda's books! :)

Thanks Grumpy Yeay, that feels good! :)))

Hello uknaija! Love your blog! I am looking at it as I write this. Thank you so much for the contemporary Nigerian writing list - I am definitely going to have to make notes!

uknaija said...

Glad to be of service...:-) feel free to add me to your blogroll