Tessy-Biz Introduces Achebe’s Autobiographical Essays | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Tessy-Biz Introduces Achebe’s Autobiographical Essays

Posted: Aug 1, 2015 at 2:34 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nigerian readers and institutions now have opportunity to get a new feel of the great literary power of late Chinua Achebe with the arrival of a reprint of his autobiographical essays-‘The Education of a British-Protected Child’ in the country.

Chief executive officer, Tessy-Biz Ventures, Nigeria’s distributor for the new ‘The Education of a British-Protected Child’, Mr. Cliff Onwudinjo, said the arrival of the autobiographical essays is timely as the collection provides an illuminating path for self discovery for the new Nigeria and invaluable guide for individuals, including parents.

Onwundinjo said the book has already been distributed widely to major bookstores, shopping malls and superstores urging institutions to take advantage of the bulk-purchase discounts to order for the book and stock their libraries.

In ‘The Education of a British-Protected Child’, Achebe reflects on a wide-ranging lifetime issues including personal and collective identity, home and family, literature, parenthood, language and politics.

The book provides a valuable historic sense that could shape the new Nigerian identity. As noted by Amazon, Achebe painted a vivid, ironic and delicately nuanced portrait of growing up in colonial Nigeria and inhabiting its ‘middle ground’, interrogating both his happy memories of reading English adventure stories in secondary school and also the harsher truths of colonial rule.

In ‘My Daughters’, one of the essays, Achebe masterly underlined the nuances that colour socialization and drew attention of parents to inadvertent actions that could have pronounced negative impact on the psychology of their children.

“Many parents like me, who never read children’s books in their own childhood, saw a chance to give to their children the blessings of modern civilization which they never had and grabbed it. But what I saw in many of the books was not civilization but condescension and even offensiveness,” Achebe said about some children books.

In an illustrative example, Achebe recalled one of the stories in the a children book: a white boy is playing with his kite in a beautiful open space on a clear summer’s day. In the background are lovely houses and gardens and tree-lined avenues. The wind is good and the little boy’s kite rises higher and higher and higher. It flies so high in the end that it gets caught under the tail of an airplane that just happens to be passing overhead at that very moment. Trailing the kite, the airplane flies on past cities and oceans and deserts. Finally it is flying over forests and jungles. We see wild animals in the forests and we see little round huts in the clearing. An African village.

For some reason, the kite untangles itself at this point and begins to fall while the airplane goes on its way. The kite falls and falls and finally comes to rest on top of a coconut tree. A little black boy climbing the tree to pick a coconut beholds this strange and terrifying object sitting on top of the tree. He utters a piercing cry and literally falls off the tree. His parents and their neighbors rush to the scene and discuss this apparition with great fear and trembling. In the end they send for the village witch doctor, who appears in his feathers with an entourage of drummers. He offers sacrifices and prayers and then sends his boldest man up the tree to bring down the object, which he does with appropriate reverence. The witch doctor then leads the village in a procession from the coconut tree to the village shrine, where the supernatural object is deposited and where it is worshipped to this day.

“That was the most dramatic of the many imported, beautifully packaged, but demeaning readings available to our children, perhaps given them as birthday presents by their parents,” Achebe noted.

He recalled that it was the patriotism and burning parental feeling to address this negative socialization that spurred his interest in children’s book and why he accepted the offer from Christopher Okigbo, representing Cambridge University Press in Nigeria at that time, to write a children’s book for the company. Achebe then wrote ‘Chike and the River’.

“With Chinelo, I learned that parents must not assume that all they had to do for books was to find the smartest department store and pick up the most attractive-looking book in stock. Our complacency was well and truly rebuked by the poison we now saw wrapped and taken home to our little girl. I learned that if I wanted a safe book for my child I should at least read it through and at best write it myself,” Achebe spoke about his experience raising his daughter.