'The Headstrong Historian'

For most of this week, something small has been missing to each of my days. I've known what it is, but just have felt to lazy or preoccupied with other things to fix the problem. What has been missing, you ask??? I haven't READ!!! I'm not talking about an article in the newspaper (which incidentally I haven't done either) or blogs, which I read daily. I mean a real can't-put-this-down-till-the-entire-book-is-over kind of reading. With characters gripping me, settings that take my mind to other places, and sentences so good I have to read it again just to fully absorb the beauty. I had started a new book, but honestly, it wasn't doing it for me so I just had to let it go!

This morning, in a completely I-MUST-have-taken-drugs-last-night haze I entered the kitchen not 100% sure what I was looking for. While checking emails, I decided that what I wanted more than anything was to crawl back into bed with a good story. So in complete slacker mode, I turned to an easy short story source - the New Yorker and ta-da, what's waiting for me? Nothing less than the great Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I printed out the story, forgot about the water I had been boiling for tea, and went back to bed knowing that for 8 pages I was about to be transported to somewhere/sometime in Nigeria.

The Headstrong Historian takes place in a village near the River Oyi during the late 19th century and tells the story of a Nwamgba. She tells of her family's curse of having miscarriages, the changes in her son, Anikwenwa, who she sends to missionary school to learn English, but gains more than just language skills and begins to scorn his traditional culture. She also tells of her granddaughter, Afamefuna, who she thinks carries the spirit of her dead husband, but I believe actually carries Nwamgba's spirit.

In this story, I got everything I was looking for. I was transported to place I could scarcely have imagined so vividly without the help of Ms. Adichie; to a time when so much was changing in Nwamgba's world. For example, Adichie writes:

Nwamgba, who still found it difficult to remember that Michael was Anikwenwa, went to the oracle herself, and afterward thought it ludicrous how even the gods had changed and no longer asked for palm wine but for gin. Had they converted, too?

And finally, I got more than just a few lines that struck a me as stunning:

Once, at a moonlight gathering, the square full of women telling stories and learning new dances, a group of girls saw Nwamgba and began to sing, their aggressive breasts pointing at her.

Just the mere use of the word 'aggressive' changes everything and when I read it, I immediately remembered the breasts of young girls in villages in Sudan and could see how the word could so perfectly describes them, especially in comparison to those of an older woman, like Nwamgba, whose breasts have long headed south.

Anyway, it was the perfect story which lulled me right back to sleep and had me wanting more when I awoke!

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