The Thing Around Your Neck

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published June 16th 2009
Fiction/Short Stories
4 Stars

“She could not complain about not having shoes when the person she was talking to had no legs.”

I have been reading this book in small doses for a month now. The stories were so short that I found it hard to read them all at the same time. I love decompressing after investing in any given book and given that this was a collection of varying tales, it explains why it took me so long to finish it. I initially planned on reviewing each of the stories but I am on vacation and it will take a bit more of my time. Haha! I might add onto this later on when i have the time. Each story had a different rating from me but as a whole the bool got a solid 4. 

Chimamanda delves into the issues of immigrants and migration as a whole, she looks at the institution of marriage, arranged marriages, infidelity and same sex relationships. There is also the whole issue of sibling rivalry that she tackles in one of the stories. The book was a diverse look at different topics and the title was best illustrated by the short story The Thing Around Your Neck which was told in second-person narrative. 

“At night, something would wrap itself around your neck, something that very nearly choked you before you fell asleep.”

In that one story, she talked of the issues that face the immigrants and it somehow reminded me of Ifemelu from Americanah. The stress levels that people have in these foreign countries even when they have green cards is really high. She works as a waitress and is avoiding communicating with her family back home until she has something to send back to them. She cannot be honest about the struggles she is facing because they all believe life must be better for her there than it was at home. It’s the life many immigrants live, working hard so that they can have some extra money to send back to their families.

“It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope.”

There was also the story of The American Embassy. The struggles of getting a visa when you hold a third world passport and the desire for people to get the visa is too real. The queues may not be the reality today but it was a reality in many African countries for years. People had to rehearse their stories just so that they do not mess up at any point during the interviews. It’s not that it does not happen anymore, it’s just that the cases have gone down a bit now. My heart broke for the woman and the ending made me tear up a bit. The political situation in the country was horrible and she was in danger but the process of getting the help she needed at that moment was too much for her.

“She had come to understand that American parenting was a juggling of anxieties, and that it came with having too much food: a sated belly gave Americans time to worry that their child might have a rare disease that they had just read about, made them think that they had the right to protect their child from disappointment and want and failure. A sated belly gave Americans the luxury of praising themselves for being good parents, as if caring for one’s child were the exception rather than the rule.”

On Monday of Last Week gave me a laugh especially the ending. This was another story of an immigrant working as a nanny with her masters degree tucked away until she got her all of her papers right. Her personal views on the parenting skills of Americans and how different it is from Africans. She is also taken by the child’s mother who is mysterious throughout her stay and she feels special when the woman notices her. She starts to dress up more just to get that attention again. It was an interesting story that showed how lonely the lives of immigrants can be that something so small can make them feel so special.

the-thing-around-your-neck

My favorite one of them all was Jumping Monkey Hill. It depicted a lot of things in the right light. This was about a writers workshop with different writers from Africa giving their stories while the rest reviews them. The whole exercise came to show the stories expected from African writers and how they are perceived to be lies when they veer from the expectation. There is also the fact that the man did not believe her story yet he was portraying the behavior she was talking about in her story even though his was not as forward as the one in her story.

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