Friday, September 16, 2016

Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun

I was not sure what to expect when I picked out Half of a Yellow Sun.

It's a sad fact that, today, the word Biafra rings no bells in most people. For me, though I was very small at the time of the events, it has left a scar. An image of Africa. I'm tempted to say that, though people at large are unaware of that struggle, they too associate the continent itself with certain photos. Through this book, I could be in that time and observe the sad things that transpired, things that could have been avoided and I applaud the author's courage in choosing the journalist, one of the main characters of this dramatic story. Via him she shows us the role of media in conflict which is not always a nice one.

Historically, it is possible that this kind of photo of starving children became an identity tag of sorts for all purposes regarding Africa. It is a mentality that stains even the writings of crime fiction in a Scandinavian country. It evokes a nauseating mixture of horror and pity. It is very disempowering.

Though equal atrocities have taken place all over the world, African, or even Indian atrocities, for that matter, become inflated by such representations and perceptions. As if we, by nature, are prone to cruelty and idiocy. In contrast, let's see what happens to hordes of us when we read Ms. Mitchell's Gone With The Wind.

Gone with the Wind

We are mesmerised. We want to be Scarlett and we swoon when we think that we might meet Rhett Butler. We are mesmerised by the cotton-wool thrown over our eyes. 

Do you know what that period represents? Do you know what atrocities were committed against the Africans and the Natives of that continent at that time? 

Anyway, the very pretty and not surprisingly very talented Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a wonderful book for you.

In the guise of an engrossing tale of two powerful and beautiful sisters, she takes on more than she ought to be able to chew given her age and spits out a remarkably powerful journey through the fraught days of Biafra.

Ms Adichie has crafted a work of effortless complexity, balancing and challenging stereotypes and all the myriad truths and lies and hypocrisies which pollute such a wild and doomed enterprise - the stakes at play when a nation is to be born.

I can never forget the characters she has created and they will heal and guide me much more strongly in life than that catty and shallow Scarlet O'Hara.

I will give you no spoilers but will exhort you to read this novel. It is beautiful and disturbing. It is young and strong. It is rich and light. It is the voice of the future for Africa is, as we speak, awakening. Africa is the world's tomorrow.

I also confess that I find the author very charming in her interviews and the book is a double delight for the value added pages at the end: links to her short stories and an insightful and section where she talks about writing the book.

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