Of all of Adichie’s short stories this is the one I have read the most, perhaps because it is a story that is focuses on queer desire or perhaps because of its gut-punch of an ending that is entirely unforgettable and remains potent, despite, or because of, multiple readings. As in Americana, Adichie explores the nuances of race and racism that must be navigated as a black woman in patriarchal white America. Kamara, a Nigerian woman waits for a Green card while working as a nanny for an American family. The white father is the main care-giver, while the child’s black mother, a painter, appears only fleetingly to undo everything Kamara thinks she understands. Adichie’s skill is in creating fully embodied people in a sentence or two and then setting each of their lives off down a path to crash and swirl into one another. I can think of no better story that shows this careful crafting: that encompasses motherhood and race and immigration and longing and child-care and labour and artistry in one single heart-breaking story.
First published in Granta 98: The Deep End, July 2007, and available to subscribers here. Collected in The Thing Around Your Neck, Fourth Estate, 2009