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".