Celebrated Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on October 27 released her first work of fiction since Americanah, a 2013 novel. Having won several awards for her bestselling works which borders on the complexities of African and African-American culture, ‘Zikora’, a short story written in compelling prose, further beams a light on feminism and sexism which she once admitted makes her more livid than racism.
Set in the United States, the story opens with the titular character, Zikora, a 39-year-old successful Nigerian lawyer living in Washington DC who was stuck in a labour room with her reticent mother in lieu of Kwame, the father of her unborn child. “It really should be Kwame here with me, holding me, sitting on the chair my mother was in, finding a way to make a joke about “nutty”.”
Kwame, 37, was of Ghanaian descent and, like her, a successful DC lawyer. They had met at a book launch and dated until she found out she was pregnant and Kwame felt “there was miscommunication”. “Ours was an ancient story, the woman wants the baby and the man doesn’t want the baby and a middle ground does not exist.” Thereon, he stopped answering her calls and replying her texts.
‘Zikora’ subtly touched on the several injustices meted out to the womenfolk mostly in the hands of black patriarchy by letting Zikora’s musings take us through the ordeals other characters like Zikora’s mother and her cousin, Mmiliaku endure in their marriages.
Mmiliaku’s “older and wealthy” husband, Emmanuel, with whom she already has five children and pregnant with the sixth, waits until she’s asleep before mating with her. He stopped her from working “because he could afford to keep her at home” and told her best friend who was still single to stay away from their home “because married women shouldn’t keep single friends.”
For Zikora’s mother who had just only one daughter and several miscarriages, she recounts how her father, though still married to her mother, moved out of their family home when she was eight to live with his “other wife”, Aunty Nwanneka, who bore sons to inherit the family fortune. All her mother had left was “respect” as the senior wife. “It was my mother who sat beside my father at weddings and ceremonies; it was her photo that appeared above the label of “wife” in the booklet his club published in his honor. Respect was her reward for acquiescing,” she muses.
For a 30-page work of fiction, Adichie chronicles some of the many, very intricate issues of sexism and single motherhood.