Chimamanda is a writer of Nigerian descent who now resides in America. Her exemplary work in writing and highlighting different societal issues in a creative and interesting way is her legacy. Purple Hibiscus is a story that depicts a certain time in African history. She has managed to highlight the things that were going on at the time. Through the story, we get an all rounded view of the time after independence. The book is simply not a creative story, but one infused with history, culture and the development of Africa as a continent. The issues she raises are applicable to every African nation that was colonized though technically not in the same exact way.
The narrator, Kambili, is a young girl who is still in school, through her innocent eyes we explore how the society was at that particular time. The importance of using a child narrator is to show that there is no bias in the happenings. Some of the issues discussed are religious extremism, domestic violence, social segregation and feminism.
The concept of religion is not foreign to the people of Nigeria where the book is set. Christianity however, is new, and most people do not fully understand what it is. We are taken through an older generation that is still practising the old religion, each person having a personal god (chi). Papa, Kambili’s father is a Christian convert who hates his father because he still worships the old gods. He is the face of religious extremism through how he treats his father, he forbids his children to go visit their grandfather. The book delicately yet comprehensively talks about the effects of Christianity on the African culture.
Papa is a violent man not just to his children but also to his wife. The book begins with him breaking household items because he was angry at his son, Jaja. Through the book, his episodes of violent outbursts are described through the eyes of his daughter. During one of his outbursts, he burns his children’s feet with hot water because they walk to sin with them.
The strength of a woman is highlighted through Aunt Ifeoma whose husband died leaving her with children to take care of. She raises children who are humble and content with the life they have and she tries to give them the best she can afford. Ifeoma is a lecturer through whom we are told about the sorry state of their higher education through financing and delivery.
The book talks about captivity and restrictions placed upon different groups of people and their ability to overcome the situations through little efforts which ultimately make all the difference. Purple Hibiscus is a page-turner and a book you don’t really want to end.
You can find Purple Hibiscus at your local bookshop or buy it online from The Magunga Bookstore.