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“The Headstrong Historian” and Weekly Geeks Catch-Up

September 20, 2008

Today has been glorious; I’ve pretty much done nothing but read. Ok, I washed some dishes. But you get the idea!

Talented and beautiful!!!

Talented and beautiful!!!

Yesterday, when I was reading blogs, I saw that Katrina reviewed a short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called “The Headstrong Historian.” Since I have so far been horrible about participating in CB’s September Short Story Challenge, and since I adore Adichie, I immediately knew I had to read the story as soon as possible!

(You can read it too: it’s available for free on The New Yorker’s website)

I wasn’t disappointed: this is yet another incredible story that manages to explore fundamental human truths, bring me immediately into the world of Nigeria, and create memorable characters just for good measure. I swear: Adichie can do no wrong! Obviously, if you’re an African author today, your work has to touch on colonialism. But “The Headstrong Historian” addresses colonialism in a more head-on way than either of Adichie’s novels. In fact, it felt like a tribute to Things Fall Apart, but from a woman’s perspective. Most of the story looks at the life Nwawgba, a Nigerian village woman whose strong personality makes her fight for what she believes in. It’s told from a personal third person point of view, and the reader is immediately drawn into Nwanga’s world with the opening sentence:

Many years after her husband died, Nwamgba still closed her eyes from time to time to relive his nightly visits to her hut, and the mornings after, when she would walk to the stream humming a song, thinkign of the smoky scent of him and the firmness of his weight, and feeling as if she were surrounded by light.

Nwamgba has to make several difficult decisions throughout her life and then live with the consequences; the central decision is whether to send her only son, Anikwenwa, to a white missionary school or not. The consequences of the decision are delightfully explored, and while I only stayed with the characters for a brief amount of time, all of them felt startingly real. It’s a pretty short short story, so rather than talking more about it, I’ll just say you should go read it. Now. Adichie is one of those rare authors who can instantly bring the reader into a whole new world, and I for one feel privileged to discover Nigeria through her eyes. What a wonderful way to begin my Saturday of reading.

Then there’s Weekly Geeks! I’ve been haphazard in participating lately, but this week’s task is catch-up, which I can always use more of! :) Here’s what I’d like to achieve this week…
+ wrap-up posts of the challenges I’ve completed and not talked about; I’m six behind!
+a review of Monique and the Mango Rains, a wonderful memoir by a Peace Corps volunteer that I absolutely loved when I read it in July and really want to share with you
+work on my Shelfari account. I started using it to keep track of the books I own, and I’ve updated it as far as that goes, but I really want to keep adding tags so that I can sort them by all sorts of fun things! I don’t expect to finish tagging all 400+ books this week, just do as much as I can.

So there you go! Finally, I’d like to end with a question: Do you know of any short stories available online that I should immediately go read? Because I want to do more short story reviews, but I didn’t bring that many collections with me, and my library card still hasn’t arrived!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2008 5:12 pm

    Sorry I don’t know any short stories online!

  2. September 20, 2008 8:29 pm

    Love your new layout! I was actually thinking of using this template myself but decided against it for some reason or another :) Good choice though!

  3. September 20, 2008 11:35 pm

    Hey Eva,

    I am sure you know this, but in case you don’t, this site has most of the short stories and poems of Adichie that have been published online.

    Just click on the ‘On the internet’ link on the left hand side of the page.

  4. September 21, 2008 12:32 am

    I too loved reading it

    Here is my review:

    The Headstrong Historian by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  5. September 21, 2008 4:00 am

    King Rat which can be found here: is good, as are a lot of the stories found on the endicott page.
    Also the free mp3 of Ray Bradbury’s short story Skeleton found here is worth checking out.

  6. September 21, 2008 7:59 am

    Thanks for the heads up re: Adichie online. I couldn’t get the link to work, but I’ll track it down.

    I have Monique and the Mango Rains on my TBR shelf, glad to hear you liked it. I’ll be reading it soon.

    Good luck with your catchups!

  7. September 21, 2008 11:42 am

    Bluestocking, that’s ok! ;)

    Heather, I’m glad you like it! I’m all about pastels, hehe.

    Violet, ohhhhh: I didn’t know that! Thank you so much-yay for Violet!

    Gautami, glad you enjoyed it too!

    Katrina, thanks for the links. :D

    Terri, really?! I just clicked on the link and it brought me straight to the story; I’m sorry it’s not working for you. And I think you’ll really enjoy Monique and the Mango Rains!

  8. September 21, 2008 12:48 pm

    The Electric Velocipede has a selection of free short stories from older issues.

    I haven’t read them all, but I am particularly fond of “The Chiaroscurist” and, especially for you with your interest in international relations “The Euonymist”. “Braids of Glass” also deals with international relations.

    They are all, of course, speculative fiction.

  9. September 21, 2008 9:56 pm

    Oh thanks for posting about “The Headstrong Historian” I will read this sometime this week, from your description it sounds great.

    I do not know of any sites specifically for short stories, but Project Gutenberg is the largest site online for free ebooks, I used it recently to find a collection by Ambrose Bierce.

  10. September 22, 2008 9:17 am

    I have yet to read this author, but I keep hearing good things, so she’s moving upon my to read list!

    If you want classic short stories, there are tons online in the public domain. Try or I’ve been amazingly surprised by how much I like them!

  11. September 22, 2008 3:43 pm

    Gautami, thanks for the links!

    Joanne, I hope you enjoy it! I love Project Gutenberg-thanks for reminding me about it. :D

  12. September 22, 2008 5:41 pm

    Two very strong recommendations for this author. I’ll have to check her work out.


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