Thursday, September 18, 2008

Short Story: The Headstrong Historian by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

The Headstrong Historian is another story I read online in The New Yorker for Short Story September.

First let me take what interested me here before I give a brief sketch of the story. To begin with, it touches upon many issues. One about a headstrong woman who can stand upto anything. She stands up for her rights. For what is her due. And who makes a decision even though she is not comfortable with it. To send her only son to study in a missionary school. Then we see missionaries calling the traditional customs primitive and the people who practice those heathens. We also see the Nigerians who had studied in missionary schools taking to westernised ways, despising their own people and their ways. The issue of Colonisation is also touched upon along with slavery, which is blot on History.

It covers the entire span of Nwamgba, a Nigerian woman born in the late 19thCentury, who insists on marrying Obierika even though his family is cursed by miscarriages. After many miscarriages, she gives birth to a boy. But her husband dies soon after and she is harassed by his cousins. To protect her son of his rightful inheritance, she enrolls him in the Catholic missionary school. After studying there, he changes and he turns his back on the traditional ways, which he considers heathen way of living. Nwamgba is no doubt hurt by it. When her son’s wife gives birth to a second child, which is a girl, Nwamgba believes, she carries the spirit of her dead husband. She is extremely fond of this girl, who somehow has an inexplicable bond with here grandmother.

Although, Nwamgba makes pottery, she is also a great story-teller. Her grandaughter grace, is the one who finds her true calling. We see glimpses of Grace's future. In a way, she too is a historian, like her grandmother Adichie has written it in such a way that, it feels more like a novel than a short story. I recommend this to be read by all...