I enjoyed (well, if that is the word) reading Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, and would heartily recommend them. But it seems that Adichie has decided to pursue some fast money, with an obvious novel and lecture circuit about “being black”… it’s the whole “start a conversation” thing all over again. Platitude after platitude… Adichie in the interview with Gross at one point even says, “what they should walk away from the table with…” as if blacks and whites in the U.S. were like negotiators at a nuclear arms treaty… I have a very healthy loathing for identity novels…. I think over-obsession with identity issues is fundamentally misplaced. It’s like going to a doctor and talking for hours about difficulty sleeping and never mentioning oh by the way a lump in my breast. And because so many people are cognitively biased this way, a lot of identity-vultures fly around saying, “give me your money and I’ll give you an identity chucklenod” (yes I coined that, the chucklenod is when you read something and nod, emit a little chuckle, and say “yup” and then the author repeats it over and over… see watermelon below).
Terry Gross, normally a sensitive and intelligent interviewer, plays the role of parochial and know-nothing white American to a tee… her lowest moment when she spend 5 interminable minutes with Adichie about her hair, wondering about why an African woman might want straight hair! Could you imagine her having that conversation with Wole Soyinka? Well, maybe I can.
When the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was growing up in Nigeria she was not used to being identified by the color of her skin. That changed when she arrived in the United States for college. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of color in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn.
The learning process took some time and was episodic. Adichie recalls, for example, an undergraduate class in which the subject of watermelon came up. A student had said something about watermelon to an African-American classmate, who was offended by the comment.
\”I remember sitting there thinking, \’But what\’s so bad about watermelons? Because I quite like watermelons,\’ \” Adichie tells Fresh Air\’s Terry Gross.