Friday, September 14, 2007

Meet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Last night I went to see writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at one of those Barnes & Noble "Meet the Authors" events. In addition to answering questions about her writing processes and inspiration, Adichie read excerpts from her latest novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (which I'll get to, after I finish Edwige Danticat's latest.) Funny that I will be reading these two works back to back, as both deal with preserving memories of moments in time that have often gone unquestioned and unsearched. "I wanted to digest the time period," Adichie said, the time being the Biafran war in Nigeria, a deathly three year conflict that hasn't really been examined in a modern context. "My book has become reason to answer questions," and what greater success for a historical novel is there really.

Adichie is an incredibly engaging orator and answered the more staid and trite questions with excellent poise. "What does it mean for you to be named 'the daughter of Achebe?' and 'how does it feel to be identified as an African author above all else?' Both don't really seem to be choices. Adichie let that be known, but she understands that her role comes with "baggage" as well as a responsibility to show the other side. "I hope [my work] complicates the way that people see Africa, " as Half of the Yellow Sun begins in a University town in a professor's home, not one's everyday picture of Nigeria. I wished the interviewer probed a bit further, as Adichie seemed incredibly against the notion of one distressed Africa, yet was a part of Vanity Fair's Africa issue, which depicted the continent as a very cohesive and uniform identity. But that's neither here nor there.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a great emerging literary voice, and I hope to hear and read what else she has to say in the future.

This was a tad different from most of the "Meet the Writers" sessions I've been to, in that the entire hour wasn't dedicated to the wonderfully talented Adichie but also to Craig Finn of the Hold Steady. Um, yeah. Not knocking Finn necessarily, but it was certainly a stretch in attempting to connect the two creative minds. At one point, the interviewer was completely reaching into thin air to combine the two with statements like, "It seemed like both of you had to leave home to find yourselves," or something like that, then again, "it seems like both of you almost thought you had to ask permission to do what you wanted to do." Whatever. I simply do not understand the appeal of this Craig Finn dude. He seems like a nice guy, very personable and charming, but I don't get it. At all. I mean, there's just no melody to his songs. It's mere recitation.

He says that he was inspired by "On the Road" for his most recent album. And the lyrics are indeed quite literary. Hey, maybe he should try writing books.

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