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Famously private about giving birth to a daughter a few years ago, the Nigerian-American prize-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie doesn’t stint on the grislier details of pregnancy and labour in this new short story about sexism and single motherhood, just released on Amazon Original Stories.
It opens with Zikora, a 39 year-old Nigerian lawyer, now living in Washington DC, in the final stages of labour in hospital. Her tight-lipped mother looks on disapprovingly as Zikora screams out in pain, demanding an epidural. “I was disgracing her now; I was not facing labor with laced-up dignity,” Zikora recounts, while wishing that it was Kwame, the child’s father, who was with her instead of her mother.
We learn that Zikora met Kwame, “ a clean-looking Black man”, and like her, a highly educated lawyer, but of Ghanian descent, at a book launch. The pair had dated happily until the moment when Zikora discovered she was pregnant, at which point Kwame changed his tune. “Ours was an ancient story, the woman wants the baby and the man doesn’t want the baby and a middle ground does not exist.” From that moment on, Kwame refused to have anything more to do with Zikora, rejecting her calls and texts.
Zikora thinks about her cousin Mmiliaku in Nigeria, who is pregnant and already has five children, of whom the youngest is six months old, and whose “older and wealthy” husband Emmanuel waits until she’s asleep before climbing on top of her, and effectively raping her.
She reflects on her own mother’s marriage to her father, and to the time, when she was eight, and her father left the family home, still married to her mother, to go and live with his second wife, Aunty Nwanneka. "She was young, plump, skin glistening as though dipped in oil," but in order to survive, Aunty Nwenneka "wielded her niceness like a subtle, sharp knife”.
Unlike Zikora’s mother, who had only one daughter, and had endured several miscarriages and a hysterectomy, Aunty Nwanneka was able to provide sons to inherit the family fortune.
Zikora also reflects on a previous relationship she had in college, with a man “who was very dark and very beautiful, near comical in his self-regard”, and who treated her like absolute sh*t."I didn't yet know that you cannot nice your way into being loved," she muses.
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Adichie, whose first novel, Purple Hibiscus was published when she was only 26, has won a string of awards for her bestselling novels about the complexities of African and African-American culture, and continues to write widely on feminism and sexism - which she has previously said makes her even angrier than racism. In Zikora, she has produced a terrific, brave story, beautifully written in taut, clear prose, that lays bare the many injustices women - especially black women - still face, often at the hands of a black patriarchy. It’s only 35 pages long, but you finish it with a sense of having read something far longer and much bigger.
Zikora: A Short Story by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieMore about: | Books | Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie