I bought this book a while ago, about 6 months now, together with the African Trilogy of Chinua Achebe, the Narrative of Frederick Douglass and Americanah by Chimamanda N. Adichie.
I waited this long to open it because I knew it would have been about a very important story and history, perhaps too important to be read without attention; I wanted to take my time. I knew it to be about war, so I was worried, I was feeling the pain beforehand; I was not sure if I was ready to know what happen in Nigeria at the end of the 1960s.
But after reading a review by The Afropolitan, I felt overwhelmed by a sudden curiosity and urgency to open Half of a Yellow Sun. I was ready.
This book is about Africa, it’s about Nigeria and Biafra, and it’s about that African war in West Africa in the 1960s that few people, or perhaps no one, talk about. It’s about the forgotten Nigerian past, those uncomfortable events that the teachers of history never told us, in order to let us forget that something called Biafran War or commonly known as Nigerian Civil War ever existed.
It’s also about the liberated African woman, a notion that will see its confirmation through the character of Ifemelu in Americanah.
In Half of a Yellow Sun I found the sweet sound of love, shaped by a shade of blue that echoed hope. I found the unsaid love between lovers, Richard and Kainene, and the declared love between Olanna and Odenigbo; and I found the horror of the war, a war that came as a surprise, overcoming the voices of people that wanted nothing but to be heard, and the feeling of tenderness for a Baby. I found a war that stroke into people’s life like a thunder lightning in a calm summer day, and the tears of men and women who gave in sacrifice their leg, their arm and, most of the time, their entire life to a nation they ardently believed in
It is important to read this book because it’s a human story. It is a chance to acknowledge and unpopular story, a history of Africa, a history we would prefer to forget and forgive.
We cannot forget. We cannot, because the mental enslavement of people, and consequently of their life, begins with memories being taken away: an organised forgetting and collective amnesia, which are systems used in the past by totalitarian regimes to deprive citizens of their essence of personhood.
We cannot forget, but we can read, understand and maybe forgive.