Spoiler alert! This is an in-depth review
Zikora was released on the 27th of October 2020 by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and it is the first book that the author has released since her award-winning book, Americanah, years ago. ZIkora which follows a trying period in the life of its eponymous character is a 35-page short story.
Zikora is a 39-year-old Nigerian, practicing law in the United States. She finds herself in a relationship with Kwame who is everything that a perfect man should be. They have a seemingly smooth sailing relationship until she gets pregnant, and everything goes south because Kwame wants nothing to do with the pregnancy.
Even in its brevity, Zikora did its best to cover a lot of themes that almost left me overwhelmed. The book talks about maternal mortality by bringing into sharp focus the morbid thoughts that Zikora was having while she was in labor.
I was leaving my body. I could die. I could die here, now, today, like Chinyere died in a fancy Lagos hospital that had flat-screen TVs in the labor wardpage 7 Zikora by CNA
Something else I also noticed was that CNA touches softly on the fact that, it is only until you’re going through specific situations, that you wish you had not taken with levity, things you have previously taken for granted or overlooked. This was reflected when Zikora started thinking of how she had read about maternal mortality before, but didn’t pay much attention at the time.
Chimamanda also uses Zikora to discuss societal expectations and its consequences, as she does in most of her books. She takes an issue, dissects it, and then writes it back to us like she took it out of our own very mouths. It is such that you find yourself relating so well to what you’re reading even when the situation has nothing to do with you.
It discusses the plight of Women and societal expectations
Through her Mother, the senior wife who had to step aside with dignity and watch her Husband take another wife because she’s incapable of giving him sons. The only consolation? Her position as the senior wife. The only defenses she has are her pride and the walls she has built around herself. Walls her own daughter can’t see through, walls that leave her as the bad cop in this “bad cop, good cop” parenting game.
Through her cousin, the smart Mmiliaku “water” who had to settle for a husband she doesn’t love, a husband who she can only describe as “nice“. Mmiliaku is the poster picture for every overly confined girl, who normally should have their own independence.
She had settled. She had been living at home after university graduation, working as a contract staff in telecom customer service, the kind of middling job that asked little of her, and promised nothing to her. Her parents expected her home before 9:00 p.m. every day, her penniless boyfriend lived in his uncle’s Boys quarters and was looking for money to go to China and try his luck in import-export. And then came Emmanuel, older and wealthy, holding his intentions like jewels. To marry Emmanuel was her only way into the world of adults.page 12 Zikora by CNA
Please, I am not in America like you. Daddy will never allow me to get my own place. And Emmanuel is nice – Mmiliaku
Through Aunty Nwanneka, Zikora’s stepmother, who wields her kindness as both a weapon and a shield to succeed in the choppy waves of polygamy.
The book also highlights the different forms of misinformation that men have about female bodies and sexuality. And also the dangers of assumption and miscommunication in relationships. Mmiliaku’s husband lays with her only after she’s slept, thereby causing her pain and in her sixteen years of marriage, she hasn’t mentioned it or said a word to him. A wife who gets raped by her husband in her own marriage. Trends of ignorance like this and further readings by Zikora on a blog that anonymously interviews men, makes her wonder if Kwame didn’t know what it truly implied when she told him she was stopping her pills.
At this point, the reader is tempted to cut Kwame some slack. What if he really didn’t know? Maybe Zikora was the one truly guilty of miscommunication. If he didn’t make a run for it when he followed Zikora to meet her parents in Nigeria, why now? The twist to this classic tale of the jilted lover with the unwanted pregnancy is that, they’re both adults, with a good job and society expects them to be up to the task. Zikora expected it too. I expected it too. So why?
Like a classic Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie story, these are questions that Zikora has left us with. Resolutions that we have to find within ourselves. 35 pages that pack so many themes within itself but still leaves us feeling unsatisfied.
Zikora covers uncomfortable topics and hits them right in the head. The transitions could have been smoother, but it gets a pass it wouldn’t have gotten had it been a full book.
Awesome storytelling nonetheless, and the use of the non-chronological plot arrangement was nothing less than what I was expecting from the talented Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
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