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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Celebrates To Kill a Mockingbird

As Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, turns 50, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pauses to appreciate this “clear-eyed depiction of American tribalism” anew:

The Thing Around Your NeckTo Kill a Mockingbird

I would come, many years later, to understand why To Kill A Mockingbird is considered “an important novel”, but when I first read it at 11, I was simply absorbed by the way it evoked the mysteries of childhood, of treasures discovered in trees, and games played with an exotic summer friend. I loved that the narrator was a girl with the marvellously un-girly name of Scout. I loved her unsentimental nature, her sharp tongue, her volubility, and her humour.

She reminded me of the imagined version of myself I liked best. Her knowing older brother Jem was very much like my brother Okey, whose happy shadow I was, and her small southern American town, Macomb, was similar to my town, Nsukka in eastern Nigeria. It was a place of open doors, of the one strange family about whom everyone gossiped, and of petty hierarchies and loyalties; a place both smug and safe. But Macomb was also much less sophisticated than my town, in a way that was fascinating, with little boys who did not bathe for weeks and deals sealed by spitting into palms.

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