The Crazy African: My Mother , The Crazy African is written by ChimamandaNgoziAdichie, a Nigerian who moved to the US to do attend college. She studied medicine and pharmacy briefly and moved on to study creative writing for which she got her masters from John Hopkins. Adichie has been regarded as the new voice of African literature. Her first and second novel won her awards. She won O Henry Prize in 2003 for her short story “American Embassy” that appeared in the recent collection ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’. He books have been translated into thirty languages and her short stories have been published in many journals like Grant, New Yorker, Zoetrope and Iowa Review.
Synopsis of plot
This story is told by a girl whose name is Ralindu but likes to call herself Lin. Her family had moved to Philadelphia from Nigeria and they spoke Igbo. Lin did not want to be associated with anything that was Nigerian and all the while her target of scorn was her mother as she was the one who refused to give up the Nigerian traditions. Lin practises the American accent and her friend Cathy helps her. Cathy, an American is very curious about all that is Nigerian. She spends a lot of time with Lin’s mother and loves to visit Lin’s house when they have guests. She is so fond of the American accent that she says, “I wish Nigerians hadn’t been a British colony, it’s so hard to lose the way they stress words on the wrong syllables.”
This feeling is enhanced after she meets Matt. When Lin took a liking for Matt, Cathy is the one who broaches the subject and puts them on together. She sees Matt mock the Indian boy with a heavy accent, so Lin does not reveal her real identity. She even does not reveal her real name is Ralindu. He knew that they were from Africa and he thought Africa was a country. This relationship goes with this veil of falsehood. One day Matt comes to her house to do some school work. Her mother leaves them, allow them to do their work. At that time they move to the couch and end up in a steamy act. But, before it reaches its end, Lin’s mother, walks in. They hear her close the door and get back before she catches in them in the act. Matt is scared and goes out immediately. Later when he meets her, Matt says, “Your mom weirded me out last night. She’s a crazy ass African!” The story ends with the author saying that Matt was looking at other girls who were passing by. This suggests that Matt would leave Lin.
The characters of this short story is seen through the eyes of Ralindu who calls herself Lin. Lin is a young girl who detests her origin and is so in awe of the American culture. She does not want to be known as Ralindu, she does not want to speak her language Igbo. She does not like the way her mother insists on following their customs. She is ashamed that her mother does not dress like other African mothers who had adapted the new trends of America. Nigerians are very proud of their ancestry while Americans are not too bothered about it and Lin likes it. In short she likes every American.
Lin’s mother is the protagonist in this story and the title is also about the mother. The mother’s name is not mentioned but she is called Chika by her husband and sometimes Lin’s friend Cathy also calls her by that name. That was one of the things Lin’s mother did not like. She liked Cathy but did not approve of calling elderly people by their first name. She wanted to be called aunty. She was so proud of her origin and if new people from Nigeria came to Philadelphia, they would visit her as she reminded them of home. She loved to cook new soups that were traditional as well. She was very devoted to her family. Every morning she made everything ready for her husband; ironed his clothes, packed his lunch, looked after every little need of his. She spoke only in Igbo and did approve of English which was spoken by her daughter and husband. The father is only mentioned and we understand he was a busy man and the family was quite well-to-do.
Cathy is Lin’s friend who understands Lin well. But she is very different from Lin. Cathy likes all that is African and gets to learn a lot of their traditions from Lin’s mother and the guest who come there. Cathy is the one who introduces Matt to Lin but she does not like Matt. Lin sums up their friendship like this, “But then, Cathy and I don’t like the same things, its what makes our friendship so real.”
Matt is the young swanky boy Lin is smitten by. He has a swagger which Lin likes. She learns the American accent to impress upon Matt. He comes across as a shallow person as he believes in all that is superficial. By calling Lin’s mother ‘crazy ass African’, he reveals his character.
The main theme is of My Mother, The Crazy African is about the immigration upheavals. Most of the people who migrate face a lot of issues. But the teenagers have more difficulty in adapting and that is what is highlighted in this story. Lin wants to drop all that is Nigerian but her mother holds on to all that is Nigerian. She is torn between her mother and her new found freedom and culture. Matt who stands for the American culture, in the end calls her mother crazy and indicates their break up. It is only then Lin is taking a closer look at the American culture and feels that not everything about America is good.
The setting of the story is in Philadelphia. The places Lin goes to is mentioned; her home, her school, the parties she attends. The setting takes a back seat in this story as it the thoughts of Lin that forms the plot of the story. These thoughts dwell on the people and not so much so on the setting.
My Mother, the Crazy African, showcases, the Nigerian teen, who battles with her mother; a teenage rebellion of a daughter.