reading: Purple Hibiscus

May 17, 2016

Reading Purple Hibiscus was my first experience with the mind and writing of Chimanda Ngozi Adichie. The book is a touching depiction of the fear and courage of a girl growing up under the harsh tyranny of her religious father in Nigeria. The book throws the reader into Nigerian culture- the food, the surroundings, and the variety of people. I really appreciated the world this book opened up for me, and where the book fits with other books. It refers to Things Fall Apart from the beginning, with the family falling apart at the rebellion of Kambili's brother, Jaja; also, the book reminded me of the Poisonwood Bible- the story of a dictatorial religious father told by women.

"We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew. Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to know." - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus

This is a story about fathers- the impact of a traditional grandfather, and an ambitious son, on a timid granddaughter- Kambili, the narrator. Her life is framed by the struggle of her harsh Christian father against his father, which symbolizes the struggle of Africa against colonialism. Kambili finds her voice and a hint of freedom as she interacts with her aunt and gets away from the suffocating and sometimes dangerous presence of her father. She gets to know her grandfather, her cousins, and more about herself.

"To call him humble was to make rudeness normal. Besides, humility had always seemed to him a specious thing, invented for the comfort of others; you were praised for humility by people because you did not make them feel any more lacking than they already did. It was honesty that he valued; he had always wished himself to be truly honest, and always feared that he was not." - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus

In the end, the story teaches the strength of true family- family that supports and challenges, rather than stifles and controls. This book describes describes a character- and an Africa- poised to bloom despite hardship, much like the revolutionary purple hibiscus.

“Chineke! Bless the children of my children. Let your eyes follow them away from evil and towards good.” Papa-Nnukwu smiled as he spoke. His few front teeth seemed a deeper yellow in the light, like fresh corn kernels. The wide gaps in his gums were tinged a subtle tawny color. “Chineke! Those who wish others well, keep them well. Those who wish others ill, keep them ill.” - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus

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