‘…he refused all very handsome looking men, for he knew that though they might be able to make love well, handsome men often felt it unnecessary to be loving. The art of loving, he knew, required deeper men.”
Currently the books that sit in my shopping cart
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Girls at War and Other Stories by Chinua Achebe
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta
Knots by Nuruddin Farah
Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
A Deeper Love Inside: the Porscha Santiaga Story by Sister Souljah
— Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her (via ashleyriordan)
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new book, is the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian who travels to America to study and stays there for 13 years before deciding to return to Lagos. The book is an atmospheric and vibrant love story – the love between Ifemelu and Obinze, the high-school sweetheart she leaves behind, the love between Ifemelu and her American boyfriend, the love she has for her young cousin Dike, whom she looks after in America, and the love of her homeland, Nigeria. It is also a novel about race and immigration and what it feels like to be black in America.
But the book’s biggest love affair seems to be Adichie’s enduring relationship with hair. Hairstyle is such a constant presence in the book that not a page goes past without a mention of it: straight weaves, box braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, afros, twists, raucous curls, kinky coils and TWAs (teeny weeny afros). Not to mention texturisers, relaxers, oils, pomades and hair butter. No character in her book gets away without having their hairstyle mentioned, and many are defined by it. And not just the girls. ‘The greying hair on the back of his head was swept forward, a comical arrangement to disguise his bald spot.’ ‘A dreadlocked white man sat next to her on the train, his hair like old twine ropes that ended in a blond fuzz.’
Chimamanda Adichie, 36, sits before me now in a hotel in London: contained, amused, sexy and intellectual. Her own hair is succinctly tethered, but it looks as if, were she to free it, it would be ready to spring into action at any time.
‘I am obsessed with hair!’ she exclaims, before settling happily into a long session on the subject. ‘As you can see I have natural, negro hair, free from relaxers and things. My hair story started when I was a baby. My mother had boys and she desperately wanted a girl, a girl with hair. I came out with a lot of hair and she was thrilled. As I was growing up she would do things to my hair but what I loved the most was when she stretched it with a hot comb. I was terrified too, because when the comb touched your ear it was so painful, but I loved the idea that my hair would then be straight. So when I was three years old I already had the idea that straight hair was beautiful and my hair was ugly.’
In secondary school her hair had to be natural or in braids. Even now, Adichie says, her two nieces who go to school near Lagos have to have their hair cut short, like boys. (‘They are continually texting me, to ask me to buy them a wig. I believe strongly that we should be proud of our hair, but if my 15-year-old nieces want a straight wig, I’ll buy them a straight wig! Life is short.’)
On the last day of secondary school Adichie ‘relaxed’ her hair. ‘It was this huge girl occasion for me and my friends,’ she says. ‘A relaxer alters the hair chemically and makes it permanently straight. But it also burns the scalp. And sometimes the hair just refuses to be totally straight, so they’ll use a tong and then it smells just like burning goat.’
She progressed through a series of hairstyles before she moved to America. ‘But here’s the thing – in America I suddenly found out I was black. I’m black! What does that mean? Suddenly I started thinking, why do I want my hair to look like white girls’ hair? This is absurd.’ In Americanah, after Ifemelu gets the relaxer treatment in the salon for the first time, the hairdresser says, ‘Wow, girl, you’ve got that white-girl swing!’Adichie writes. ‘She left the salon almost mournfully; while the hairdresser had flat-ironed the ends, the smell of burning, of something organic dying which should not have died, had made her feel a sense of loss.’
Adichie well remembers the day she cut off all her hair, and is now a keen exponent of the natural hair movement, though it is only popular in America; back in Nigeria hair is still straight. She has a friend who will not even answer the door without her wig, and ‘the salons there don’t know how to care for our hair any more. They only know about wigs and weaves and relaxed hair.’
Don’t get put off my the length, the entire article is well worth reading. I just wish Adichie would’ve addressed the real reason why Nigerians were upset about Thandie Newton being cast to play a Nigerian woman.
Amazing author!!! I am just about to read her 1st book right now :-3
bell hooks’ “sisters of the yam: black women and self-recovery” has really made an impact on my life. also, “you can be the happiest woman in the world” by dr. aidh al-qarni. and “the tao of wu” by rza those books are non-fiction. if you are looking for fiction:
- the kite runner and a thousand splendid suns both by khaled hosseini.
- this is how you lose her and the brief wondrous life of oscar wao both by junot diaz
- things fall apart by chinua achebe
- twelve tribes of hattie by ayana mathis
- the book of negros by lawrence hill
- half of a yellow sun by chimamanda ngozi adichie
- interpreter of maladies by jhumpa lahiri
- secret daughter by shilpi somaya gowda
- I know why the caged bird sings by maya angelou
- a piece of cake by cupcake brown
- persepolis by marjane satrapi
I am going to force myself to stop now or else i will not stop lol. but yeah, the above books really all touched me in one way or the other.
Happiness, Like Water
A debut story collection of Nigerian women building lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, the burden and strength of love.
In Happiness, Like Water Chinelo Okparanta offers a portrait of Nigeria that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving. As Daniyal Mueenuddin brought us everyday Pakistan with In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, so Okparanta brings us life across social strata, dealing in every kind of change.
Among her characters are a young woman faced with a dangerous decision to save her mother, children slick with oil from the river, a woman in love with another despite the penalties. Their world is marked by electricity outages, lush landscapes, folktales, littered roads, Land Rovers, buses that break down and never start up again. They fight their mothers and their husbands, their own shame and their own sexuality, the power of religion and the pull of love.
These are startling, challenging stories filled with language to make your eyes pause and your throat catch. Happiness, Like Water introduces an astonishing talent, a young writer with a beautiful heart and a capacious imagination.
“If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.”
“Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am - and what I need - is something I have to find out myself.”
“We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own.The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.”
“When a tradition gathers enough strength to go on for centuries, you don’t just turn it off one day.”
“When the British came to Igbo land, for instance, at the beginning of the 20th century, and defeated the men in pitched battles in different places, and set up their administrations, the men surrendered. And it was the women who led the first revolt.”
“When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.”
“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.”
“It is the storyteller who makes us what we are, who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that the survivors must have - otherwise their surviving would have no meaning.”
“I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past - with all its imperfections - was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them”
“That we are surrounded by deep mysteries is known to all but the incurably ignorant.”
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
— The RZA via The Tao of Wu (via survivalofthefitted)