So I attended the Americanah book launch at Terra in May. I was excited because I love Chimamanda and her works. Until she made those comments about human hair (Brazilian hair weaves et co for those unfamiliar with the term). Those comments that didn’t respect that some in the audience had human hair on. Those condescending comments that made it seem anyone without natural hair was invisible. Suffice to say, I left that gathering without buying the book and I haven’t gotten around to even reading a borrowed copy.
That was in April, fast forward to July, Chimamanda gives a Boston Review interview calling ElNathan John ‘her boy’. I read the interview and my jaw literally dropped, she didn’t just say that! I was disappointed at best and shocked at worst. If she had stopped at that, it might have been excused as a slip but she went on to express her dislike for the Caine prize. Juxtapose that with her comments about not being interested in the stories to read them and asserting that the best fiction was in her mailbox, you get the idea of a conceited Chimamanda.
Some may argue that Chimamanda was just trying to deemphasise the ubiquitous notion that to be an African writer of note, you must have won some foreign prize. Maybe, but did she have to diss other writers in the process?? Though that notion is so wrong, truth is, that’s the reality on ground and even Chimamanda is a product of that stereotype; she won the British Orange Prize, and became an internationally known literary figure. So how about being happy for a fellow writer and a fine one at that, and not make such unfair comments?!
Of course, ElNathan’s response on his blog was very sarcastic. I can identify with him when someone you respect and admire deeply becomes a source of hurt and pain. Anyways, he got free publicity, even if in the most unlikely of ways.
I like Chimamanda and her smart retorts to questions, I still do but this path she has chosen; a destructive one won’t lead her anywhere. So easy Chimamanda, lest this gift of yours becomes your Achilles’ heel. Enough said!