Is Love Still Love If It Is Entangled With Violence From a Parent?

In Speak No Evil, Uzodinma Iweala highlights some of the realities of growing up in a Nigerian immigrant household in the U.S.

Things get real for the Ikemadu family when Niru’s dad, Obi, discovers Niru is queer; “It is an abomination!”

The novel tells the heartbreaking story that unfolds.

Uzodinma does a brilliant job of capturing Niru’s intersecting identities along with the themes of power and voice. Everyone who reads this novel will decide for themselves whether “love” that is entangled with violence from a parent is still love.

Speak No Evil is essential reading for second generation Nigerian parents who long to hold on to their parents values but recognize the need to do things differently.

The two teenagers in this story are from privileged backgrounds, yet their experiences are vastly different. The contrast between Niru and his best friend Meredith, a white female, comes to bear in the final chapters of the book.

This story pushes readers to consider several questions.

  1. Who gets to speak?
  2. Who has the power to speak for other people?
  3. Whose experiences are silenced?
  4. Whose experiences are honored?

Ultimately, there is always a “who” that does the speaking, a “who” that does the silencing and a “who” that determines the value of experiences.

The story is set in present day, Washington, D.C. and the sequence of events is not far from what can happen in any U.S. city.

I enjoyed the emphasis on intersectional identities; especially those identities that individuals can’t turn on or off when it benefits them.

I picked up this book because “Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation (book adapted into a Netflix film)” was on the cover. I knew that I could expect characters that were full of depth and complexity. In the end, I was not disappointed.

I look forward to reading many more by the author.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Nigerian Immigrant in America?

The Thing Around Your Neck centers on Nigerians, the Nigerian diaspora, and the performance of living between two cultures.

These short stories explore what connects us to each other and our country of origin.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is adept at telling stories about the Nigerian immigrant experience in the U.S. and the struggle to maintain values and culture while formulating an identity. Her narrators, whether in Nigeria or the U.S., are mainly women and the choice is deliberate.

Through her stories, Chimamanda effortlessly poses the following questions:

  1. What does it mean to be a Nigerian immigrant in America? Or to be a Nigerian American who lives in Nigeria?
  2. Who constructs the boundaries of what each experience means and does not mean?
  3. What do these hyphenated identities truly represent?
  4. Is the thing around our necks our national identities?
  5. Do we wear these identities as expensive gold pendants- that at times, weigh us down?
  6. What is it like to be neither here nor there?
  7. Is life in the U.S. actually any better than life back home?

Visit our growing bookshelf.

Chimamanda’s characters in The Thing Around Your Neck embody the experiences of people who are trying to find answers to these questions.

By the end, we get a glimpse of what life might be like to live between two countries that are economically and socially different, yet full of people who share the same human emotions and struggles.

Read more selections by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dear Ijeawele…

You may enjoy these short stories by Chinua Achebe and Lesley Nneka Arimah.

Girls at War and Other Stories by Chinua Achebe
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah

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