The Thing Around Your Neck is a short story collection by one of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Having previously read and loved Purple Hibiscus (my review) and especially Half of a Yellow Sun (my review - go and get a copy now if you haven't read it), I couldn't wait to get my hands on this collection, her only work published in book form that I had yet to read. And I wasn't disappointed.
The Thing Around Your Neck is a short story collection about women, the immigrant experience, things not working out the way they should and homesickness. All of the women in the stories have a connection of some kind with Nigeria; some are on their way to America to marry Nigerian men who have already made it, some are caught up in violence, some are writing about it and some are missing it with every bone in their body. Nigeria appears as almost a character in it's own right - a whirl of colours, smells, sound and vibrancy compared with a grey, bland, tasteless America.
I had several favourite stories from the collection. One was A Private Experience, a story of an unlikely friendship between a Hausa Muslim and Igbo Christian during race riots in Nigeria. Another was On Monday of Last Week, about the loneliness of a woman working as a nanny for an American family. Although Tomorrow is Too Far didn't really fit in with the themes of the rest of the collection, it was a very creepy story about sibling rivalry.
But my favourite story was Jumping Monkey Hill, about a group of upcoming African writers invited to a safari lodge in South Africa for a writing seminar by a white sponsor. It seemed as though Adichie had used this story to vent all of her frustrations about the attitude towards and labels given to African writers as most of the stories the Africans write are disparaged by the white sponsor. He wants them only to write of war, desperation, hunger and stereotypes, not the truth of their experiences and countries.
To sum up, I would highly recommend this well written collection, especially if you are interested in the immigrant experience.
First published: 2009
Score: 4.5 out of 5