Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Chinasa is the title of a short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I just thought of it tonight as I flipped through a chapter of Purple Hibiscus, another book by the same author. Before I continue, I have to mention that Purple Hibiscus is an accomplished novel for so many reasons and among them, the fact that it allows the reader time to peer into other people's 'affairs' and challenging the same reader to evaluate the observations of the narrator without appearing intrusive; and as Natasha Walter, Vogue clearly points out," Purple Hibiscus is a novel that brings you into the heart of private passions. But it is also a novel that strays into political waters and does so with some subtlety"

Back to Chinasa. It is a short story that captures the Nigerian Civil war that started on 6th July 1967- 15 January 1970. Biafra war as it was also called was caused by an attempted secession of the South Eastern Provinces of Nigeria as the self acclaimed Republic of Biafra.(More information on Biafra can be obtained from various books on Nigerian History like Biafra war revisited: a coincise account of events that led to the Nigerian Civil war by Ugobelu Egbebelu or Nigerian revolution and the Biafran war by Madiebo Alexander A. and many others.

Chimamanda captures Biafra in most of her fiction but I would recommend Chinasa for a starter. Chinasa is told in the first person voice. The voice belongs to a woman who experienced the civil war at its worst but fate seemed to protect her from anything that was life threatening. It is during one of these events that she meets Chinasa, a young girl of about fifteen but who appears old because of the many problems she has been through on account of Biafra. Such problems include the deaths of close relations.

The narrator of Chinasa takes in the girl and and trains her. Being a teacher herself, the she teaches her how to read and she is impressed by the progress. Eventually, the war ends and it is a new dawn when finally, Chinasa can return to her hometown and the narrator to Enugu(her hometown).

The narrator meets Chinasa many years later through a newspaper. She has achieved so much and has even been appointed the cabinet minister.

It's an inspiring story, a story that restores hope.

There are a few questions I need answers for. Chimamanda are you with me here?
  1. What was the role of the gossiping women?
  2. What was the role of the owner of the house?
  3. Why was the narrator never sure of dates during the war?
Otherwise, Chinasa is a good story to start with for anyone who wants to learn about Biafra creatively. Its a story filled with tears but with a happy ending... Enjoy your reading.

As always,

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