Aubrey's Reviews > Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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How long do you think it would have taken Europe to move past the Middle Ages had there been no crusades or colonialism or any other garroting movement of one culture extending into another and taking back what it sees fit? What explains the disparity between the defeat of Germany and the crushing of Biafra beyond the matters of infrastructure and economic needs of cosmopolitan borders? Why is it that I have childhood memories of eat up, eat up, the children in Africa are starving, and it is only now that I discover the reality behind it? You say it was my fault that I didn't educate myself enough beyond the white-washed gilt of my blowhard Americanisms of the Millennial world; I ask what the fuck was all my schooling and 'respectable upbringing' for, if that wasn't a guarantee. There is a reason for the swamp of World War II pathos in entertainment, for the sniffing at "affirmative action" and "academics", for the pretenses of post-racism post-feminism post-"quality literature", and it's not me.

I am a sucker for meaning and prettied up prose, I will grant you that. What I will refuse you is the promise that this work is more of the same. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a gift, a gift, and she more than deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. I'd be angrier about the old white men ubiquity of that shiny shiny shit for credibility if I thought it deserved her.

Everyone knows the race question, the gender question, the power wielded through physiognomy and character definition, but few know how to deal with it. Fewer are those who can incorporate all that into a narrative that acknowledges the pain without focusing the guilt. If you get your hackles up over Adichie's portrayal of any of the humans here, make sure you take the time to reflect on the hows and wherefores, for unless you have a connection to Biafra lined with blood and guts instead of photographs and TIME magazine, she didn't write it for you. What a wonder, then, that this work has gotten the recognition it deserves. Almost a sign of hope for the myriad of worlds that are being continually passed over for the same old facile bigotry, but hey. Let's not get comfortable here.
'The war isn't my story to tell, really.'
Ugwu nodded. He had never thought that it was.
Rare is the work which shows every character's flaws in an ugly world without ever declaring its citizens the same. Rare is the author who embodies a fundamentally different persona without extenuating bitterness, removing the question of 'objectivity' and all its lying obfuscation from the table completely in her effort to tell a story of her heritage. There is an evil in these pages of hers that she refuses to separate out into a single entity, a lazy route that denies the reality of succulent coercion and silent conformation and relegates our lives along the lines of political ignorance and feel good charity. You are as compromised as I, and if you think I point this out due to vindictive holier-than-thou, forget it. My incentives are helplessness and rage, my methods are writing and contextualization, and if recent misogynistic extremism fuels my efforts more than Adichie's prose, well. Knowing my audience, you'll pay attention regardless.
Ugwu thanked him and shook his head and realized that he would never be able to capture that child on paper, never be able to describe well enough the fear that dulled the eyes of mothers in the refugee camp when the bomber planes charged out of the sky. He would never be able to depict the very bleakness of bombing hungry people. But he tried, and the more he wrote, the less he dreamed.
There is redemption here in all the right ways, but not for you. The bigger the gaping maw in your chest, the better.
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Reading Progress

February 13, 2014 – Shelved
February 13, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
February 13, 2014 – Shelved as: reality-check
February 13, 2014 – Shelved as: person-of-everything
February 13, 2014 – Shelved as: women-s-prize
May 10, 2014 – Started Reading
May 11, 2014 –
page 8
1.79% "There are two answers to the things they will teach you about our land: the real answer and the answer you give in school to pass. You must read books and learn both answers."
May 16, 2014 –
page 237
52.9% "Starvation aided the careers of photographers."
May 19, 2014 –
page 281
62.72% "...how banal the word kill had sounded from the child's mouth..."
May 25, 2014 –
page 398
88.84% "Ugwu thanked him and shook his head and realized that he would never be able to capture that child on paper, never be able to describe well enough the fear that dulled the eyes of mothers in the refugee camp when the bomber planes charged out of the sky. He would never be able to depict the very bleakness of bombing hungry people. But he tried, and the more he wrote, the less he dreamed."
May 27, 2014 – Shelved as: 1-read-on-hand
May 27, 2014 – Shelved as: 5-star
May 27, 2014 – Shelved as: cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die
May 27, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed
May 27, 2014 – Shelved as: r-2014
May 27, 2014 – Finished Reading
August 9, 2014 – Shelved as: 500-wm-added
August 20, 2014 – Shelved as: person-of-reality
September 16, 2014 – Shelved as: r-goodreads
December 17, 2015 – Shelved as: antidote-think-twice-all
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: antidote-think-twice-read

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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message 1: by Garima (new)

Garima I don't want to miss your review so I'm leaving a comment.


Aubrey Alright. I should have something up for you within the next few days.


message 3: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie I'm doing the same as Garima. :)


message 4: by Agnieszka (new) - added it

Agnieszka (im)patiently waiting ...


Cheryl I will never forget this book! I'm glad you enjoyed it too, Aubrey. And I'm sure your review will be stunning, as always.


message 6: by Dolors (last edited May 27, 2014 02:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dolors Your contextualized writing is also a rara avis as it usually leaves a gaping hole in my chest without focusing on the wound, couldn't even locate the weapon although I seem to recall the flashing of a silver blade. Your words cut and heal at once. A respectful bow from Barcelona Aubrey.


Aubrey Thank you very much, Dolors. I return the bow from Fremont.


Victoria Love your review! I will have to add this one to my list. :)


message 9: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie Beautiful review. I was stunned by "Americanah", I cannot wait to get to this one. She's a gift alright and such a fierce observer of humanity.


Aubrey Victoria wrote: "Love your review! I will have to add this one to my list. :)"

I'm glad to hear that, Victoria. Adichie needs to be read by all.


Aubrey Melanie wrote: "Beautiful review. I was stunned by "Americanah", I cannot wait to get to this one. She's a gift alright and such a fierce observer of humanity."

Thank you, Melanie. I look forward to your own reading of this, as well as my future reading of 'Americanah'.


Cheryl So. I don't know how to respond to your review but I just know that I must respond because there is something about it that reaches out and touches me to the core. So I say thank you, Aubrey, for such a heartfelt response to such a gracefully written book about the West African war struggle (this case Biafra). On behalf of the African child (like myself) who at some point has experienced the starvation or war that Adichie writes about so beautifully, we raise our glasses to you.


Aubrey Cheryl wrote: "So. I don't know how to respond to your review but I just know that I must respond because there is something about it that reaches out and touches me to the core. So I say thank you, Aubrey, for s..."

You may be aware of this already, Cheryl, but I am agonizingly self conscious of my reception/reviewing when it comes to books such this. I can indict all I like, but if my entire composition rings false, it would have been better had I, an inherent keeper of privilege, never spoken at all.

In light of that, thank you, thank you, thank you. You've given me the courage to continue speaking the way I do, in hopes of understanding what I'll never truly know.


message 14: by Garima (new)

Garima Excellent review as always, Aubrey. I knew you would incorporate your powerful voice with Adichie's influential literature. Can't wait to read her now.


Samadrita First of all, the cover of your edition is beautiful. Secondly, your impassioned praise for Adichie screams at me to get to this right away, which I will, but it also makes me wonder if I should get some perspective on the Biafran war first (Chinua Achebe's memoir throws a lot of light on the subject which is also on my tbr). Is it necessary or can I feel the thematic pulse of the book without being thoroughly informed?

And lastly, a thumbs up for Cheryl's comment and your reply to her.


Cheryl Samadrita wrote: "it also makes me wonder if I should get some perspective on the Biafran war first (Chinua Achebe's memoir throws a lot of light on the subject which is also on my tbr). Is it necessary or can I feel the thematic pulse of the book without being thoroughly informed?"

You know I'm a big nonfic lover, Samadrita. But having read both books, I'm not so sure reading one over the other is necessary, because Adichie gives a lot of education here--especially through the character, Richard--the writer/journalist. Hers is a showcase of the emotional impact. Achebe's is a treasure chest of historical info. It's hard to say which one first. I read hers first. I don't know if this is too much but how about you reading both at the same time?

Oh and thanks a million for the comment :) A review like Aubrey's is a courageous one for GR. And it's emotionally appealing. I needed to speak up with her (she inspired me, as most times I'm dutifully silent). I felt that I needed to say something to show my support (as someone who has lived through similar circumstances that this book details) because I was really enthralled by the poignancy of such a worthy review for a worthy book. Bravo, Aubrey.


Samadrita Cheryl wrote: "Samadrita wrote: "it also makes me wonder if I should get some perspective on the Biafran war first (Chinua Achebe's memoir throws a lot of light on the subject which is also on my tbr). Is it nece..."

Got it. Since my currently reading quota is kind of full already I'll have to give up on the lofty aspirations of reading both hefty books at the same time. However, I'll most definitely read both eventually, especially since Achebe's nonfiction is marvelous.

And I fully appreciate your comment because GR is one platform which has gathered together like-minded souls from so many different corners of the globe who share their enthusiasm for reading and get to widen the scope and reach of their worldviews in turn. Voices like Aubrey's and yours are much treasured here, Cheryl. :)


Aubrey Garima wrote: "Excellent review as always, Aubrey. I knew you would incorporate your powerful voice with Adichie's influential literature. Can't wait to read her now."

Thank you, Garima. I'm very much looking forward to your reading of her.


message 19: by Aubrey (last edited May 28, 2014 11:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Aubrey Samadrita wrote: "First of all, the cover of your edition is beautiful. Secondly, your impassioned praise for Adichie screams at me to get to this right away, which I will, but it also makes me wonder if I should ge..."

Yes, the cover completely circumvents the acacia tree/black woman meme of other publishers! I found out about that lazy crap after I purchased this, so I'm glad I was attracted by something that took real effort.

As Cheryl's actually read both and concludes that there need not be an order to it, I say go for Adichie. She's where I started, and I'd say the result was a brilliant one.

Lastly, thank you, Samadrita, Cheryl, everyone. You're all making this reading/writing business a wonderful one.


Jonpaul Terrific review as always. I did really love her even-handed and non-judgmental approach to every character, and her refusal to indict anybody. It's a beautiful and necessary novel.


Aubrey Thank you, Jonpaul, and I agree. It's a skill more authors should cultivate.


message 22: by Jimmy (new) - added it

Jimmy "Knowing my audience, you'll pay attention regardless."

As we should! Great review.


message 23: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue Another excellent review, Aubrey. This is one I hope to read before too long (but that may be next year at this point). Thank you for putting it into the forefront.


Aubrey Thank you, Jimmy and Sue. I look forward to both your thoughts on it.


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