I have an embarrassing confession to make. For me, up until very recently, the name 'Biafra’ referred only to the former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra. I might have known it alluded to something larger, but I couldn’t have told you a thing about Biafra, the short-lived independent republic of Nigeria. That only began to change when I picked up Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Half of a Yellow Sun was published back in 2006 but I was led to it via Adichie’s 2013 novel, Americanah. I was so struck by Americanah's mixture of humor, social commentary and a heart wrenching love story, that I immediately sought out Adichie's other novels. I’m in good company on this Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie love train. Beyonce has famously sampled portions of Adichie’s TEDx talk on feminism for the remix of her song flawless; and the increased publicity Adichie has received, paired with her own sharp musings on everything from fashion to Nigeria's new anti-gay laws, is quickly making her a literary ‘it’ girl for a whole new audience.
July 2014 promises to finally bring the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun to the United States. The story unfolds in late 1960s Nigeria, when a series of military coups, and the violent persecution of the ethnic Igbo population, led to the secessionist state of Biafra. Adichie tells this emotional story through the eyes of two wealthy Igbo sisters, a shy British expat and a thirteen year old peasant houseboy. These different perspectives give a vivid and personal portrayal of both the euphoria of independence and the heinous brutalities of the resulting civil war.
One more thing- The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. With no disrespect to the great acting accomplishments of Miss Newton, 2014 belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofor. The enormously talented British actor, born of Nigerian-Igbo parents, may not have taken home the Oscar this time around, but his powerful portrayal of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave demonstrated what he is capable of as an actor. The world already knew Beyonce was flawless. Chimamanda and Chiwetel have since joined her. I have high hopes that the movie adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun will follow suit. You have until July to read the book first- go!