2007 OCUReads Selection
Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Adichie
About the Book
Set in Enugu, Nigeria, on the eve of a military coup, Purple Hibiscus tells the story of fifteen-year-old Kambili and her painful awakening from an abusive home life to the beginnings of personal freedom.
Kambili and her brother Jaja grow up under their father’s watchful eye and wrathful anger. Their father is a fanatically religious man and demands perfection from his children—in school, at home, and in their religious devotion. Any infraction, however slight, is met with physical punishment, from beatings and whippings to having boiling water poured over their feet. He beats his wife so badly that she suffers a miscarriage. It is this stifling and fear-drenched environment that shapes Kambili and makes her so shy she can barely speak, so timid she doesn’t know the sound of her own laughter.
When Kambili and Jaja go to visit their high-spirited Aunty Ifeoma, a university professor in Nsukka, their world becomes suddenly larger, louder, richer, and freer. Here Kambili is plunged into a world where children and adults alike say what they think without fear, and everyone can laugh, argue, question, and challenge each other openly. And though Aunty Ifeoma is Catholic, she still embraces traditional African songs and beliefs, and her loving approach to life is a warm and welcome change from the rigid atmosphere of Kambili’s home. Immersed in this new world, Kambili begins to discover her own voice, her ability to laugh and to make others laugh. And she begins to fall in love with a charismatic young priest who helps her to see her own worth, clearly, for the first time.
But the violence of Kambili’s home life is echoed in Nigeria, as a repressive regime takes power in a military coup. Her father’s newspaper is under pressure from the new government, the lecturers have gone on strike at the university where Aunty Ifeoma teaches, and corruption runs rampant throughout the country. It is a time of great turmoil, both personal and political, and the lives of all the main characters are brought to crisis points. In this beautifully written and poignant first novel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers a moving and nuanced exploration of the ongoing tension between the forces of oppression and the irrepressible human desire to be free.
About the Author
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria, where she attended medical school for two years at the University of Nigeria before coming to the United States. An O. Henry Prize winner, Adichie was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing.
Her work has been selected by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the BBC Short Story Awards and has appeared in various literary publications, including Zoetrope and the Iowa Review. She now divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
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