Chimamanda is an acclaimed Nigerian writer who was awarded the “Genius Grant” by the MacArthur Foundation in 2008
* Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published in 2003 and won the Best First Book award in the 2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
* Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, named after the flag of the short-lived Biafran nation, is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published by Fourth Estate in the UK and by Knopf/Anchor in 2006 and was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.
* Her third book is a collection of short stories titled The Thing Around Your Neck and was published in April 2009 by Fourth Estate in the UK and Knopf in the US.
Mine is a dispersed family. My engineer brother lives in England, my doctor sister lives in the United States and I, with the peculiar good fortune of being a full-time writer, divide my time between the United States and Nigeria. We are not very different from other middle-class Nigerian families; most of the friends I grew up with in the academic town of Nsukka now live abroad.
When these friends, and many others like them, graduated from university, they were shrouded in the lethargy of military rule. The future was a vision of impossibilities. They could not find jobs, could not start businesses and so the only thing to aspire to was a foreign visa. They are now working abroad as doctors and security guards, home health aides and lawyers. They form vibrant Nigeria-focused groups on the Internet and regularly send money back to relatives. Some save carefully for yearly visits home. Many others, like an acquaintance I will call Emeka, have not been back in years. Emeka finally visited Nigeria last Christmas – the first time since 1996 – and what he found most striking was this: The nightclubs in Lagos played Nigerian pop music.
I realized, listening to Emeka, that the Nigeria of today would indeed be unrecognizable to a person who left during the last year of General Sani Abacha’s regime.
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