Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

Things fall together 

Rollins' Winter With the Writers series comes to a close with a reading by Chimamanda Adichie, the best-known Nigerian author since Chinua Achebe

click to enlarge 1275415.jpg

Chimamanda Adichie

Reading, onstage interview and signing
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23
Rollins College, Bush Auditorium
1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park

For at least 50 years, Rollins College has sponsored a February celebration of literature, a monthlong cold-weather feast of contemporary writers. The 2012 edition of Winter With the Writers, as it’s come to be known, is as always a superior mix of writers, but they’ve saved the best for last: winner of multiple prestigious lit awards, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and one of the New Yorker’s 20 best writers under 40 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Carol Frost, professor of English and director of Winter With the Writers, says she hoped for 2012’s series to feature “a global literary family.”

“Chimamanda’s writing stood out as true and fine,” Frost says via email. “[She] was impressed by our stellar list of former WWW authors, and that often figures strongly in an author agreeing to participate. Because I invited her first, there was flexibility in the dates, and once I had her signed, I invited the others.”

That list of former participants is indeed stellar, featuring Michael Cunningham, Billy Collins, Barry Lopez, David Henry Hwang, Kay Ryan and Jamaica Kincaid in just the past four years. This year’s list, however, had a twist – the astute mix of Florida’s own Carl Hiaasen, Romanian poet Mihaela Moscaliuc, Ilya Kaminsky of Odessa (now Ukraine), American-in-Paris (if only in her writing) Paula McLain and Adichie forms an overlapping fresco of personal narratives. Frost says, “Being introduced to multiple stories from different continents reminds us of the freedom language gives us to open our hearts and speak our minds. The aim of all five writers has been the same: to give voice to the bitter and sweet secrets of family and country.”

Adichie in particular focuses on family and country – her novels and short stories are set in Nigeria, but the emphasis is on the personal. Readers of modern African literature often focus on the sociopolitical, but Adichie resists being pigeonholed. Half of a Yellow Sun, set during the Biafran war for independence, is a novel of characters, not a political tract.

And then there’s the shadow of Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, a novel of postcolonial Nigeria perpetually featured on school reading lists (and a title perpetually stolen for headlines). Any writer must contend with revered forebears; Adichie, far from distancing herself in order to establish an independent voice, plays with the Achebe-worship. The first words of her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, are “Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion,” and her latest book is titled The Thing Around Your Neck. But far from the village life of poverty and religious ritual of Achebe’s masterwork, Adichie’s Nigeria is a modern space of CD players, Peugeots, Sesame Street and guns.

The stories in The Thing Around Your Neck are set in both Nigeria and America, elegantly parsing the divided loyalties of any modern immigrant. Adichie’s characters are individuals beset by specific circumstance, not allegorical ciphers.

Speaking to Chicago’s Newcity at a literary festival in 2010, Adichie said, “It would be really nice if my work was talked about as just literature,” continuing that she’d rather discuss “the struggle to write a good sentence” than be known as a chronicler of political struggle.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


© 2022 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation