The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Aside from her feminist manifestos, The Thing Around Your Neck is the first fiction I have read by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (though Americanah sits on my shelf) and I was impressed, and not surprised when I found myself immersed in each of the 12 short stories of this collection. My mother told me the same during her reading of it for the book club I was a part of in Austin. She had arrived early to North Austin, where the meeting was set, not near done with the book, and finished most of it in her car beforehand - all easily pictured.

Each of these stories is from a female perspective, except for one named 'Ghosts', covering envy, redemption, violence, possession, faith, illusion, infidelity, Nigerian husbands in Nigeria, Nigerian husbands in America, dead children, dead wives, dead sisters, dead brothers... Amazing that such a short book of even shorter stories could be such a tour de force.

She imagines the cocoa brown of Nnedi’s eyes lighting up, her lips moving quickly, explaining that riots do not happen in a vacuum, that religion and ethnicity are often politicized because the ruler is safe if the hungry ruled are killing one another.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

At this point, I have read a small but growing assortment of literature set in or set against Africa, but Adichie maintains the unique ability to blend the dilemma and dynamic of living across both Nigeria and America, and the challenges for those who face a foot in both worlds simultaneously. The risk and bid families take to give their children a better life, the harshness or brilliance of returning to the 'Motherland' when America, too, has begun to shape who you are, to provide you with a life that counters the one you love, or are meant to love. 

She had come to understand that American parenting was a juggling of anxieties, and that it came with having too much food: a sated belly gave Americans time to worry that their child might have a rare disease that they had just read about, made them think that they had the right to protect their child from disappointment and want and failure. A sated belly gave Americans the luxury of praising themselves for being good parents, as if caring for one’s child were the exception rather than the rule.
— Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, The Thing Around Your Neck
You wanted to feel disdain, to show it as you brought his order, because white people who liked Africa too much and those who liked Africa too little were the same—condescending.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the title is so startling, why it stands out (it stands out more than the short story to which it belongs). Each of her stories illustrates the thing around her neck, the tightening and loosening of hope, faith, lust, loyalty, family, self awareness, etc., in a world ever widening (and somehow, ever closing in). This was a great book, with so much to dissect - if only I had been able to read alongside my mother in the car before going to book club to discuss.