I turned again to look at the woman. I was reminded of what Chikwado had said about my lover the first day that he came to our office: “His face is full of overseas.” The woman, too, had a face full of overseas, the face of a person whose life was a blur of comforts. There was something in the set of her lips, which were lined with cocoa lip pencil, that suggested an unsatisfying triumph, as though she had won a battle but hated having had to fight in the first place. Perhaps she was indeed my lover’s wife and she had come back to Lagos and just found out about me, and then, as though in a bad farce, ended up next to me in traffic. But his wife could not possibly know; he had been so careful.

That from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story in the September 20 New Yorker. Possibly the best all year. I am rarely so engrossed in a short story; it is difficult to connect with a character in a few thousand words. The story is a perfect window.

Adichie’s Half a Yellow Sun has been sitting, unread, on my bookshelf for two years. That will now change. I’m sufficiently enthused that I also just bought her latest novel. I will report back.

(P.S. For another of my–and The New Yorker‘s–favorite authors, see this article.)

5 thoughts on “Birdsong

  1. I’m sure you’ll love Half of a Yellow Sun. As someone who is no expert on Africa myself I’m obviously in no position to judge the “African authenticity” – but she is definitely a compelling storyteller – a fact that comes across clearly in her ability to make you connect with the character in her short story. And her TED talk also illustrates this beautifully when she talks essentially about “stereotypes and their danger” but manages to keep your attention for 18 minutes!!!

  2. Great shoutout for Mengestu, he’s a fantastic example of a novelist tackling African immigration politics head on (and the isolation of observing this as both an insider and and outsider).

  3. You will love Half of a Yellow Sun. I’ve used it in class to teach Biafra, the conflict between traditional society and modernity, and the problems that African states faced immediately after independence. The students thought it was too long, but they also got it.