Monday, July 29, 2013

Half of A Yellow Sun

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 A while back I had this idea to start a magazine that showed the positives of my continent. It would cover everything from Business, Tourism to highlighting Africans making strides in and out of the continent. I conducted an extensive amount of research but somehow never followed through on the project – I guess I got a job and later grad school – huff!! excuses. Anyway, during my research, I stumbled on Chimamanda Adichie… devoured her books - Purple Hibiscus , Half of A Yellow Sun -  and rushed to get an autographed copy at her book signing in Union Square.

Side Note: Check out her latest book "Americanah" I hear its riveting and controversial

Chimamanda is best known for “Half of a Yellow Sun” a story about how the political-cultural tensions in post colonial Nigeria tear a family & a people apart. The story touches on many issues from loyalty, interracial/ethnic relationships and the economics of  a newly independent country. You can read more here.

I was very pleased when Ivory, my bestie told me the book had been adapted into a movie. With the major roles played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Rose. I was even more pleased to see iconic Nigerian actors in the movie – although, I doubt the movie was shot in Nigeria but I digress.

Photo from

Photo from

As I poured through the book, I realized how little I knew of the Biafra war; a civil war that erupted as a result of the Southeastern peoples desire to secede and a war that was largely an impetus for MSF. Growing up in Nigeria, I do not remember being given a detailed account of our history in school - specifically that history. I mean sure, I’d heard of The Biafra War but only in passing along with other historical facts like the death of Herbert Macauley. - (If there are any ACC readers out there, do you guys remember being given a detailed account of the Biafra War? ) - I also lived and went to school in Lagos (a Southwestern city), so perhaps that has something to do with it. idk.  One of my favorite writers Chris Abani (please check him out he is AMAZEBALLS) also agrees that the war was not discussed in detail for fear that it would reignite tensions – like that was not already happening.

I often tell people that I learned more about my country and continent after I left – perhaps such is the nature of immigration and holds true for every immigrant; but, Half of a Yellow Sun put a lot of things in perspective for me with regards to who I am and where I am from. It gave me pride and it made me sad because although ficitious, the events were very real and linger till today.

Ethnic riots were commonplace when I was younger; when these riots would begin, parents would rush to pick their kids from school and scoop the neighborhood kids as well;  schools and businesses would shut down until the riots were over, and once it was done, everybody returned to business as usual. I cannot count how many of these broke out when when I was a child, naturally, I was simply happy to have a day off from school and never thought more of it. The book opened my eyes to how sheltered we were, how my parents did an excellent job of making sure we were not really exposed to the dangers of  everyday life of a Lagosian – some are not so fortunate. Thank you mum and dad.

In the book, what resonated the most for me  was the fact that that generation of returnees (odenigbo who I think is somehow reminiscent of Ojwuku ) were ready to die for change, for progress... to make a better country for us. I finished the book with a rekindled ache to be an agent of change - you know, to stand for something; like those people - no like those heroes. They did not forget who they were; they went back home to BE the change. Alright,  I'll stop myself here before I start a pity-party about how my hunger to "do-something" fizzled. Point is, this a must - read! This is not just another African- war tale, but a compelling illustration of the human quest for betterment and resilience in the face hardship - at least that was my takeway. 

Half of A Yellow Sun is going to be featured in the Toronto Film Festival this fall and I think released next year. Watch the Trailer here

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