Ever since I first read—and loved—this story, I have googled it at random moments just so I can be struck by the first line: The yarn baby lasted a good month, emitting dry, cotton-soft gurgles and pooping little balls of lint, before Ogechi snagged its thigh on a nail and it unravelled as she continued walking, mistaking its little huffs for the beginnings of hunger, not the cries of an infant being undone.What an opening, and what a world.
Nneka Arimah’s assurance with fantasy is frankly just delightful to witness, and part of that delight is at the sheer grace and ambition of the story in its centering of radical reproductive futures, storytelling-as-prophecy, and hair. Hair! I continue to marvel at the compactness and elegance of the story.
First published in The New Yorker, October 26, 2015. Collected in What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, Tinder Press, 2017. Read it online here
Motherhood, whether tender or terrible, is touched upon often in Lesley Nneka Arimah’s spellbinding collection. Although What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is all killer, no filler, I’ve chosen ‘Who Will Greet You at Home’ as my stand-out story. In a matriarchal society, young women must craft their children from found materials, like yarn, raffia or clay, in the hope that their mothers will breathe life into their handmade effigies. Before that can happen, they must carry these dolls like babes in arms and keep them safe for a full year before there’s any hope of them coming to life. The narrator, Ogechi, struggles with the task of self-made motherhood, but after multiple false-starts she finds success with a somewhat unusual material. It’s a story about the pressure on women to be mothers, and to be perfect mothers at that, with perfect children, as well as covering themes of fertility and infant mortality.
First published in The New Yorker, October 2015, and collected in What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Tinder Press 2018