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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Image source: The Baltimore Sun.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new short story in Harper’s Bazaar, a brief one titled “How Did You Feel About It?,” is all about love, class and multiculturalism. The female narrator is Nigerian, her husband is English, and the rest of the characters are American, Japanese and Italian. The narrator ponders the nature of her relationship with her husband and they are both startled to run into another observant couple.

Read below.

In the quiet carriage we sat angled away from each other. We always rode the quiet carriage, but today it felt like a gift: a reason not to talk. Jonathan in his maroon sweater cradling his iPad. The sunlight weak, the morning uncertain. I was staring at the magazine in my hand, deeply breathing in and out, a willed and deliberate breathing, aware of itself. Breathe – such an easy target for scorn, so often summoned as panacea for our modern ills. But it worked. It helped push away my sense of engulfing tedium, even if only for brief moments. How does this happen? How do you wake up one morning and begin to question your life?

Jonathan shifted on his seat. I kept my eyes on the magazine, to discourage any whispered conversation.

“Something has been on your mind,” he told me that morning as he buttered a piece of toast. I kept silent, slowly spooning muesli into my mouth, and he said nothing more. Why hadn’t he asked me a question? Why hadn’t he asked “What is on your mind?” A question was braver than a statement. A question forced a reckoning. But Jonathan avoided direct questions because they had in them an element of confrontation. His dislike of confrontation I had once found endearing. It made him a person who thrived on peace, and so a life with him would be a kind of seamless happiness.

When he did ask questions, they seemed always to seek reassurance rather than information. His first question to me, shortly after we met years ago, was about servants. I had mentioned the drivers and househelps of my Lagos childhood, and his question followed: How did you feel about it all? Because servants were foreign to him, a relationship with them had become a matter of morality. He told me that when he first could afford weekly Polish cleaners for his London flat, he had hidden in the spare room while they cleaned, so ashamed was he of paying somebody to scrub his toilet.

For Jonathan to ask “How did you feel about it all?” was not really about how I felt, but about a moral code I was supposed to follow. I was to say: “I felt terrible. I worried about their welfare.” But the truth was I felt nothing because it was the life I knew. Had he asked me “What is on your mind?” that morning and had I said “I am wondering if this is the life I want, and what I have missed out on in the years we’ve been together,” he would have no answer for me. Because I was not supposed to think such things. It was unfair to do so. Wrong. That we sometimes think what we are not supposed to, and feel what we wish we did not, was something Jonathan was unable to grasp.

Read the full story HERE.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies and Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Bazaar Short Story Is All Love, Class and Multiculturalism” Subscribe

  1. Mwinji 2017/08/18 at 08:49 #

    This was such a different piece. I’ve really never read something so emotionally present and current from Adichie.Usually theres a sense of nostalgia,like the stories are memories, and or usually based on or building off a past political event. Here you can completely hear the writer’s ‘voice’ in the right now and it seems less nostalgic and romantic and more dissilusioned. Like this is what love and marriage are supposed to be but this is what they really are, these are expectations and these are desires,this is the colorful perfume advert sort of version of what it is to be wealthy (the strangers on the train) and this is the grey, saltless reality of what it is to have but not be able to express or feel like you can express and fufill your innermost desires-its essentially this tension between what is expected of you especially as a woman and what is experienced, this tension between reason(conforming to the status quo) and passion.It seems in this story though that no matter what you choose its just different sides of the same coin, and in this sense there is this feeling of being trapped as a woman no matter how content you may be or convince yourself you are as the narrator seems to do by the end of the story.I cant wait to read her next novel, maybe shell give us some closure, an answer even if its messy, on how to escape this conundrum.Loved this,so much growth<3

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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