Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun. Read by Robin Miles. New York: Recorded Books, 2008.
Reason read: Half of a Yellow Sun was made into a movie – read in honor of the Academy Awards sometimes being in February and sometimes in March.
This is the story of five individuals during the short time of Biafra’s secession from Nigeria in the early ’60s. First is Ugwu, a young village boy sent to be the servant of a university mathematics professor. He knows his situation in Professor Odenigbo’s home is very good compared to other servant boys so he is careful not to “rock the boat” but all the while he keeps his ears and eyes open. His is a coming of age story of sorts. Professor Odenigbo is passionate and outspoken about the plight of the African continent, especially when it comes to political influences. Despite his strong opinions he is easily dominated by his mother. This weakness leads to his undoing, starting with his romance with Olanna. Olanna’s relationship with Odenigbo defies her parents and their thinly veiled wish for her to be used as a pawn to marry wealth or royalty. Her strength comes from acceptance and forgiveness. Much like her twin sister, Kainene (my favorite character in the group). Kainene has defiantly fallen in love with very British and very white, Richard Churchill. While the twins appear to be very different from one another they share the same underlying vulnerabilities. Finally, there is Kainene’s Richard Churchill. He has come to Nigeria to write a book about Igbo art. Instead he finds himself caught up in the secession and hoping to immerse himself in the new Biafra as one of its new citizens. Then there is the violence of war…
Swirling around these characters are issues of race, identity, and sense of belonging. There is one poignant scene when Richard admits to never feeling danger despite being in the midst of a brutal massacre. His white skin allowed him to remain outside the violence. Even his romance with an Igbo woman did nothing to threaten his sense of being merely an innocent outsider.
Author fact: Adichie did a TED talk in July of 2009 on feminism.
Book trivia: Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Broadband Prize.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa, the Greenest Continent” (p 9).