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The Thing Around Your Neck

Published by Anchor Books on 2010-06-01
Paperback: $15.95
FICTION / Short Stories (single author), FICTION / Anthologies (multiple authors), FICTION / Historical, LITERARY COLLECTIONS

In these twelve dazzlng stories, the bestselling, award-winning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.
(Paperback (1), 2010-06-01)
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ASIN: 0307455912
ISBN: 9780307455918
EAN: 9780307455918



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Praise for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK “Adichie excels at the depiction of complicated relationships, familial and romantic. . . . Her language is recognizably Chinua Achebe’s. . . . But Adichie has gone beyond, or away from, Achebe in an important way: she is optimistic. She may have grown up on Enid Blyton, but in her lifetime, she has already seen things that fall apart begin to come back together.” —The New Republic “Fascinating. . . . Most of Adichie’s characters are alone, adrift in a strange physical or emotional landscape. . . . [They] feel invisible, erased. They can’t go home. They want to melt into America. What would it be like to feel that sinister thing, memory, around your neck? Perhaps you can imagine after all.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review “Powerful, deftly assembled. . . . Adichie gives us what a first-rate writer should: a keen yet poignant view of the contradictions of the human condition.” —The Christian Science Monitor “Adichie is keenly aware of the particular burdens that come with literary success for an immigrant writer, a so-called hyphenated American. . . . One comes away from The Thing Around Your Neck heartened by her self-awareness and unpredictability. She knows what it means to sit at the table, and also what it takes to walk away.” —The New York Times Book Review “Provocative. . . . A finely crafted, compelling and satisfying set of stories.” —The Providence Journal

“Prose this skillful deserves international acclaim. Insightful, powerful and brimming with characters that seem to leap from the printed page, this collection is nothing less than a literary feast.” —Tucson Citizen “What’s on display in these stories is a fierce imagination and dazzling use of language that marks Adichie as a writer of impressive reach and achievement. . . . There’s no question that this is a writer to watch, one from whom we can expect great things in the future.” —The Denver Post “Accomplished. . . . These are powerful stories by a masterful writer that perceptively evoke the less celebrated aspects of immigration—loss of place, familiar comforts and unquestioning acceptance by others—as well as the toll of pervasive authoritarianism back home.” —RichmondTimes-Dispatch “A revealing outsider’s view of America appears in many of these stories. . . . Adichie deftly pulls much from her native country’s troubled past and present, turning it into high and intimate drama. . . . Her words and stories are insightful and provocative and tell us much about the human experience in difficult times.” —The Oregonian “[Adichie’s] Americans are outsiders clamoring to be let into society her upper-class Nigerians are insiders clamoring to be let out of history. . . . Whether these stories reflect the writer’s own experiences, only Adichie knows. That they reflect the lives of her countrymen, there can be no doubt.” —The Boston Globe “Beautifully crafted. . . . Adichie has attracted a lot of attention in her relatively short career.. . . This book will show you why.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

“[Adichie is] a deeply ambitious and justly celebrated writer whose prose is lucid and whose narrative method is simple and straightforward. . . . [These stories] resonate powerfully because of their thematic depth and their author’s ability to understand and reveal her characters.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer “Outstanding. . . . Adichie embodies a literary cosmopolitanism as expansive and mellifluous as her name: she offers tales that make world literature from American fictions. . . . Her abilities to compress and drive the narrative dazzle us.” —The Dallas Morning News “Affecting. . . . Powerful. . . .The Africa in Adichie’s collection isn’t the Africa that Americans are familiar with from TV news or newspaper headlines. Her stories are not about civil war or government corruption or deadly illnesses. She is interested in how clashes between tradition and modernity, familial expectations and imported dreams affect relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children.” —The NewYork Times “Packing a full world into a few paragraphs is precisely the shortstoryteller’s challenge. . . . [Adichie] proves herself worthy of the challenge, building a rich universe in both broad and subtle strokes. . . . Certainly [these stories are] strong enough to stand alone. But the cumulative effect for an American reading them is a history lesson injected with emotional immediacy.” —Houston Chronicle “Ask most Americans what they know about Nigeria and they may be hard-pressed to mention anything beyond oil production and scams on the Internet. Adichie knows far more, and her writing about her homeland and its emigrants to America illuminates this powerful African country.” —The Hartford Courant

“Haunting. . . .[Adichie] writes with wisdom and compassion. . . . Here is one of fiction’s most compelling new voices.” —People “Whether they live in Nigeria or the U.S., the women in Adichie’s stories do not have it easy. One thing they do have, though, is brains. Their suffering is all the more poignant because, deep down, they know the price you pay for not doing what you want in life is incalculable.” —ChicagoTribune “A wise and minutely observed update of the Americanimmigrant experience.” —TheVillageVoice “You know it when you see it: the ability to conjure whole lives, times, places, worlds in a few deft splashes of prose, Picassoesque line drawings of the mind, without resort to attitudinal or perspectival gambits, language games, postmodern devices. . . . The coloration and vigor of these stories rarely pale, and Adichie’s supple talents are on full display.” —Elle “The stories in The Thing Around Your Neck are so exquisite they grab you by the throat and stop your heart.” —Vanity Fair “[Adichie’s] tales explore an array of power struggles, and often the story’s kick comes from the shifting of that power, the moment of realization or choice that will result in changed lives. It’s the hint at these lives beyond the final lines that reminds one of what a good novelist Adichie is. There are many characters you would like to travel with further.” —FinancialTimes “Adichie, a classic storyteller, expertly limns the lives of Nigerian women and their families, both in their mother country and in their adopted U.S.” —Ms.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003,The New Yorker,Granta, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. Her most recent novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the Orange Broadband Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award it was a New York Times Notable Book and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

also by chimamanda ngozi adichie Half of a Yellow Sun Purple Hibiscus


THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Anchor Books A Division of Random House, Inc. New York

N, J U N E 2 0 1 0 Copyright © 2009 by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Published in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 2009. Anchor Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc. This is a work of fiction.Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Owing to limitations of space, previous publication information appears on page 223. The Library of Congress has cataloged the Knopf edition as follows: Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. The thing around your neck / Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.—1st ed. p. cm. 1. Short stories, Nigerian (English). 2. Nigeria—Fiction. I. Title. PR9387.9.A34354T55 2009 823'.92—dc22 2008041271 Anchor ISBN: 978-0-307-45591-8 Book design by Wesley Gott Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Ivara

CONTENTS Cell One 3 Imitation 22 A Private Experience 43 Ghosts 57 On Monday of Last Week 74 Jumping Monkey Hill 95 The Thing Around Your Neck 115 The American Embassy 128 The Shivering 142 The Arrangers of Marriage 167 Tomorrow Is Too Far 187 The Headstrong Historian 198


TOsita he first time our house was robbed, it was our neighbor who climbed in through the dining room window and stole our TV, our VC, and the Purple ain and Thriller videotapes my father had brought back from America. The second time our house was robbed, it was my brother Nnamabia who faked a break-in and stole my mother’s jewelry. It happened on a Sunday. My parents had traveled to our hometown, Mbaise, to visit our grandparents, so Nnamabia and I went to church alone. He drove my mother’s green Peugeot 504.Wesat together in church as we usually did, but we did not nudge each other and stifle giggles about somebody’s ugly hat or threadbare caftan, because Nnamabia left without a word after about ten minutes. He came back just before the priest said, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace.” I was a little piqued. I imagined he had gone off to smoke and to see some girl, since he had the car to himself for once, but he could at least have told me where he was going. We drove home in silence and, when he parked in our long driveway, I stopped to pluck some ixora flowers while Nnamabia unlocked the front door. I went inside to find him standing still in the middle of the parlor. CELL ONE

CELL ONE “We’ve been robbed!” he said in English. It took me a moment to understand, to take in the scattered room. Even then, I felt that there was a theatrical quality to the way the drawers were flung open, as if it had been done by somebody who wanted to make an impression on the discoverers. Or perhaps it was simply that I knew my brother so well. Later, when my parents came home and neighbors began to troop in to say ndo, and to snap their fingers and heave their shoulders up and down, I sat alone in my room upstairs and realized what the queasiness in my gut was: Nnamabia had done it, I knew. My father knew, too. He pointed out that the window louvers had been slipped out from the inside, rather than outside (Nnamabia was really much smarter than that perhaps he had been in a hurry to get back to church before Mass ended), and that the robber knew exactly where my mother’s jewelry was—the left corner of her metal trunk. Nnamabia stared at my father with dramatic, wounded eyes and said, “I know I have caused you both terrible pain in the past, but I would never violate your trust like this.” He spoke English, using unnecessary words like “terrible pain” and “violate,” as he always did when he was defending himself. Then he walked out through the back door and did not come home that night. Or the next night. Or the night after. He came home two weeks later, gaunt, smelling of beer, crying, saying he was sorry and he had pawned the jewelry to the Hausa traders in Enugu and all the money was gone. “How much did they give you for my gold'” my mother asked him. And when he told her, she placed both hands on her head and cried, “Oh! Oh! Chi m egbuo m! My God has killed me!” It was as if she felt that the least he could have done was get a good price. I wanted to slap her. My father asked Nnamabia to write a report: how he had sold the jewelry, what he had

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