Wednesday, July 4, 2012

...having it all.

"Why Women Still Can't Have It All", Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2012

This month's cover story in The Atlantic augurs a new low in the magazine's attempt to straddle the line between seemingly provocative long-form journalism and newsy relevance. Slaughter's argument is stunningly banal, self-pitying, and directed towards the privileged elites who want to assuage their guilt for maintaining that privilege. Never let it be said that The Atlantic editors know not their target audience.

Who better to deliver this argument than the former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and mother of two? After all, she's credible: "I have worked very long hours and pulled plenty of all-nighters myself over the course of my career, including a few nights on my office couch." Drawing from such experience, Slaughter argues that work-life balance is, in fact, a balance in which trade-offs must be made. If your work-life definition of "having it all" means that you must aspire to Secretary of State while still carving out time for home-cooked meals with your kids, then yes, you cannot have it all. A job that definitionally requires extraordinarily long hours and heaps of travel will never make good bedfellows with prolonged family face time. A more self-evident truth could not exist.

"Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable [sic] tensions between family and career."

But first, let's back up. Slaughter implicitly suggests that her tenure at Princeton--heading up a prestigious public policy school no less--and raising her two young boys (aspiring Mandarin speakers both!) was not a sufficient level of success. She yearned for a "position of power" in government, and so chose a job which required that she be physically estranged from her family for five-sevenths of her waking hours. After realizing that this decision shortchanged her family, she penned this article to relate her woeful tale of sacrifice and re-prioritization. The real wonder is that such a smart woman took the feminist credo at face value in the first place.

"Both [young women] were very clear that they did not want that [career-centric] life, but could not figure out how to combine professional success and satisfaction with a real commitment to family."

It goes without saying, but men and women in positions of power have been making this trade-off for a long time. Those who strive to be at the top of the professional ladder and those who are—-yes-—most "committed" are those who invariably will rise to the top. My friend's father was CEO of a major bank and not a major presence in the home during my friend's upbringing. The father consciously chose to prioritize work responsibilities over family time, and as far as I know, never complained about not "having it all." And not for nothing, his hard work paid generous dividends—-quite literally—-for his family after all, which was surely part of his motivation.

Slaughter, on the other hand, hopes that our societal norms will evolve to meet her wants: that our society's most demanding jobs (of which she is desirous) will become...less demanding. Her wish is as unlikely and unwise as it is unnecessary. Several countries in southern Europe have experimented with legislating free time for citizens with decidedly dangerous results. What's more, in a place like America, there will always be those willing to sacrifice almost everything for their job-—Type A workaholics, annoying as they are, are here to stay.

Instead of asking the world to meet Slaughter on her own terms, she should think more holistically about the competing desires in her life. Rather than silo them, combine them. If her metric for "professional success" were to include some measure of meaningful family face time, then she should well be able to square the circle of having it all. It may rule out Secretary of State or CEO of a Fortune 500 company much like it will rule out 18-week vacations each year, but it might allow for—-oh, I don't know-—dean of a graduate school at Princeton who routinely leaves work at 6pm.

"We may not have choices about whether to do paid work, as dual incomes have become indispensable."

But Slaughter may also do well to re-examine decisions that she and her husband have implicitly made. She deems the double paycheck "indispensable." Perhaps it is when you define happiness as the ability to purchase a large house in the right zip code, send your kids to the best (read: private) schools, take an extended leave of absence to China so the kids can pick up Mandarin, and eat at the finest restaurants. But do not forget that these are self-imposed choices of the privileged classes, and I surmise that most people from that demographic realize that access to such things entails some level of sacrifice. Slaughter has the option to live more simply and pursue happiness more directly-—trust me, I know a lot of poor, happy families in Honduras—-but she has chosen not to. Or better said: if your conception of happiness is so idealistic as to be unobtainable, why would I want to listen to you bitch about it?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

…how WCL sees the world (pt. III).

On Iran: Obama has played this perfectly and it’s starting to pay dividends. Obama has repeatedly extended a hand to Iran but it is keeping its fist clinched. That has made it clear to the world that Iran is not willing to negotiate in good faith, and it gives less cover for Russia and China. I’m surprised we got those two to sign on to this latest round of sanctions, but we won’t know if the resolution has any teeth until it is released. Note at this point that the agreement hasn’t been signed, but I can’t imagine the Obama administration trumpeting the deal if it wasn’t a certainty.

Now, you may say: what good is another UN resolution. More than you might imagine. It gives the US a lot of cover to really tighten the screws with regards to Iran’s economic partners. Since almost all financial dealings touches the US in some way or another, we have an enormous number of levers to shut down financial lines for companies and countries, and while we could have done this unilaterally, the UN resolution gives it a lot more credence.

I also suspect that Iranian enrichment isn’t going as well as they say. There have been reports of centrifuges breaking down and impurities in the uranium. The original deal, you might recall, was for Iran to ship their low-grade uranium to France, who would process it into unweaponizable high-grade uranium, but Iran balked on the deal. Part of me thinks it’s because Iran’s low-grade uranium is such shit, that they would be embarrassed to send it to the French, who would see how impure it was and the low quality of the product. Better for Iran to have that huge bargaining chip than to reveal their nuclear program as a farce. Also, you’ll notice, in the latest iteration of the deal, they would send the uranium to Turkey alone, and Turkey would not be allowed to share it with Western powers. Of course, Turkey doesn’t have the technology to test for impurities like France does.

On the EU: The financial troubles of Greece and the other Southern European nations is a real problem, but I can’t say how it will turn out without being there myself. You have to realize that Germany went along with the EU and the euro as a sort of penance for their actions during the two World Wars. You can say all you want about US farm subsidies, but the European ones are ridiculous: basically, Germany pays $70 or $80 billion worth of agricultural subsidies to France and Spain annually, largely because they are atoning for their sins. But this debt crisis is the first time that we’ve actually seen Germany say “No, we’re not going to do it your way.” You have to remember: Merkel is a product of East Germany, which does not have the shame of West Germany. In fact, they consider themselves victims, having endured a painful Soviet occupation.

So Germany is starting to flex their muscles a bit, which is by and large a good thing. They won’t become the Fourth Reich, but they will have a sort of economic hegemony over the rest of Europe. This understandably scares the shit out of the rest of Europe – a unified Germany concerned for its own interests is too powerful a beast. Recall that out of the 4 controlling powers, only the US approved of reunification in 1989. France and the Soviet Union actively opposed it, Britain secretly opposed it, but the elder Bush was simply too good at this game.

I don’t think Germany would be rash enough to revert to the mark, but they are going to force Greece and other southern European nations to take difficult steps. I think the Germany parliament will end up approving the bailout if only out of self-preservation, but the German people will be rightfully pissed. A lot of commentators are saying that this is the death knell of the European dream, but I could see it going the other way – it could force Europe to create an even more closely-knit alliance, much like how the much stronger US Constitution was a result of the debts engendered by the Articles of Confederation.

On the DC Jumbo Slice: Given my initial inclinations, this pizza is actually pretty good.

On Obama’s sins: Obama has done 4 things that have really bothered me, two of which are real dealbreakers for me as a voter. Dealbreaker number one is the reports that Obama has signed a secret authorization to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki. The idea that the president can call for a capture or kill order of an American citizen is so obviously unconstitutional that is disgusts me. This is the only issue on which Glenn Beck and I agree, if you can believe it. If the Republicans put up a candidate who opposes Obama on this, I will vote for them without question. Lucky for Obama, the Republicans are more likely to run someone who says we’re not killing enough of these Americans.

The second inexcusable Obama act has been his nomination of Kagan to the Supreme Court. She is clearly intelligent, but she is shallow in certain other ways that concern me. First, she’s a Clintonite, and that immediately puts her in a deep hole in my book. But more importantly, as far as I can tell, she has never taken a difficult stand on anything in her life, and for that, I don’t think she’s earned a seat on the court. She has done everything exactly right in terms of her career advancement, and she’s never rocked the boat. (For example, the military recruiting thing at Harvard is a total non-issue. She did exactly what she should have done legally, and she was enacting a fairly common policy that pre-dated her tenure).

To be honest, I wish Obama had picked a fire-breathing liberal. Diane Wood would have been my choice. Stevens was a true liberal and did not always tow the partisan line, much like Scalia and Thomas on the conservative side. Now he’s being replaced with someone who will not rock the boat, and make the politically expedient liberal decisions that Obama wants her to make. She has been placed there to do Obama’s bidding, and that bothers me for someone who arguably has as much real power as the president given their life tenure.

Obama also pissed me of by including the individual mandate in the health care bill after he campaigned against it. But it was inserted by Congress, so I can give him a little bit of leeway on that. But he has less of an excuse for the use of TARP funds to bailout the Big Three automakers. It was patently absurd that they changed the law to give the unions a concession and basically screwed all of the senior credit holders.

On the bird that repeatedly flies into his window at the break of dawn every morning: It has to be the dumbest creature on the planet, and yet, it has evaded all of my attempts at capture.

On Hillary Clinton: You know how much a despise Hillary, but credit where credit’s due: she has done an excellent job as Secretary of State. She has worked hard and achieved admirable results. For example, her ability to keep Pakistan on the straight and narrow has been more than impressive. Her accomplishments in Russia and Iran are also admirable. But not only that, she has done it quietly, with no distractions or any indication that she is doing it for her long-term political benefit. Her relationship with Obama is also surprisingly refreshing. It’s nice to see them reversing typical roles: Obama is the more dovish and she the more hawkish, playing a good cop, bad cop routine.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

...2666 (by Roberto Bolaño).

If Roberto Bolaño’s two titanic works were to be distilled into a singular image, it would surely be of the Sonoran desert. It is the primary touchstone of both 2666 and The Savage Detectives, and what’s more, serves as the massive canvas onto which Bolaño spills his astonishing breadth of characters, plots, and general knowledge. Only the endless desert can house such sprawling, convoluted, enigmatic structures.

But the deserts in TSD and 2666 read differently. In the former, it is a vast mirage into which Belano and Lima journey looking for redemption and truth, as uncertain as the reader in finding it. In the latter, the desert is nothing more than the personification of evil, manifesting every human misery at a steady pace. In the former, a quixotic playground; the latter, a repository for death, suffering, bones—but unimaginably worse—because the harshness of the landscape has no memory.

2666 starts off on familiar terrain. The Part About the Critics allows Bolaño to shine with his typical whimsy. His treatment of the four academics and their fetishization of Archimboldi constantly winks at the reader, letting us in on the joke that the literary specialists walk a fine line between sacred devotion and reductive insignificance to their life’s work. Bolaño himself seems to be unsure of literature’s place, be it one of extreme power or impotence. So far so good.

2666 also ends on familiar terrain with a characteristically winding narrative arc of Archimboldi’s life, which tells us a great deal about the author’s life without really revealing him to us. This is Bolaño’s trademark. It works in TSD because Belano’s and Lima’s lives are assembled by a pastiche of diverse characters who can’t quite wrap their heads around the two protagonists. We infer only broad waves of perception via osmosis—their vitality, their devotion, their urgency and the futility of their quests, their eventual resignation, in short, the spectrum of human emotion and experience—but at least there is something there that we can grab hold of and celebrate, or at least contemplate.

2666 failed me because there are no broad waves, nor even the tiniest ripples. There was nothing to latch onto, nothing to soak up, nothing to sail over. Instead, characters played like a heap of wet cardboard that may at one time have carried something of interest. Oscar Fate from Part III is a ghost. He hardly exists but to be enveloped by the madness and amnesia of Santa Teresa. He finally escapes, but his thoughts, emotions, and logic are completely inscrutable. Likewise, Amalfitano is not so much a character, but a mirror onto which the insanity of the murders and the desert are projected and magnified into strange dreams. Lalo Cura and Haas from Part IV are bare sketches of characters that would thrive anywhere outside of the black hole of Santa Teresa. Just as we identify the rape victims by what clothes they wore by the time their bodies were discovered, there are hardly any identifying or noteworthy characteristics about Lalo Cura and Haas other than their muted back stories.

In place of well-developed characters, we get a bewildering set of anecdotes, tales, stories within stories, tangents, asides, and more. Characters are invented and discarded at such a brisk pace that I began to lose interest in them, uncertain whether to devote energy into seeds unlikely to be nurtured. This is most clear, ad nauseaum, in the Part About the Crimes, where a forced march through a landscape of death and rape scorches you over a 300 page slog. Or earlier: ten pages on the history of Brazilian snuff films as a tangent from a story within a story. Or later: when pre-Archimboldi Reiter stumbles into the journals of Ukrainian poet Boris Ansky, we are throttled headfirst into the labyrinth of his life and his dealings with Ivanov, the science fiction writer. Tellingly, Archimboldi, foot soldier of the Third Reich, amid grave strife, finds solace in this novella. He then goes on to become a writer himself—score one for the power of writing and good story-telling. But 2666 didn’t work that way for me: trudging through the ravaged landscape of bleak, dreary death and no humanity to sustain it was nothing more than a chore for vast stretches.

Try as I might, I can’t dismiss the novel outright, though. Part of my enjoyment with TSD derived from my knowing Bolaño’s story of semi-martyrdom, and how the failures of alter-ego Belano were redeemed in author Bolaño’s becoming the toast of the literary world on his deathbed. It bothered me that this heightened the stature of the novel, because it was, after all, extrinsic to the writing. After reading 2666, though, I no longer have that problem because Bolaño so clearly inhabits these two novels, infusing himself throughout with his alter-egos and baffling set-pieces. TSD is an autobiographical mosaic, and 2666, more abstractly, is haunted by Bolaño’s drab, bleak world view. He was apparently preoccupied with man’s ability to do unimaginable things to one another, and to do so with such banality (e.g. The Holocaust, the Juarez murders, featured prominently here and elsewhere in his oeuvre). In 2666, it overwhelms.

If his editor’s closing note is to be believed, Bolaño lived his literature more than anything else, and that is the ultimate testament of a writer’s faith in his craft. Bolaño’s unpublished notes for 2666 read: “The narrator of 2666 is Arturo Belano…And that’s it, friends. I’ve done it all, I’ve lived it all. If I had the strength, I’d cry. I bid you all goodbye, Arturo Belano.”

This struck me more than anything else on preceding 898 pages, perhaps because it is the only gasp of humanity and vitality to be found in the entire book. The rest is just a seething desert wasteland.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008 WCL sees the world (pt. II).

On why Hillary took the Secretary of State post: "If you do the calculus--and of course we're working with the supposition that Hillary is a power-hungry wench--then the only reason for her to have accepted is that she thinks Obama might not survive his first term. Think about it: as Secretary of State she would be perfectly situated to take hold of the Democratic nomination in 2012. After all, she was the runner up in 2008. Who's going to stop her? Biden? He won't be able to put up a fight against the Clinton machine. I can already imagine a weeping Clinton invoking Obama's words in order to help heal the country. Look: she mentioned this very notion in the primaries when she talked about RFK, so there's no doubt this scenario is on her mind."

On why homosexuals might not be around in 50 years: "I am working based off of two assumptions here. First, that homosexuality is largely hereditary or at least hormonally determined during pregnancy. And two, that gays will by and large win the right to marry. As for the first assumption, I do believe culture plays a role in sexual development, but a relatively small one. Much like one's height is determined primarily through genetics but can be affected by diet, one's sexuall orientation is largely determined before birth but can be molded by culture.

Now, think about the strides we have made in genetics in the last 60 years. DNA's role in heredity was determined in 1952; in 1972 we know the sequence of a gene; by 1978 we have the first test tube baby; in 1996, we clone a pig; by 2003 we have decoded the human genome. So we're moving quite along, clearly accelerating in our pace of genetic discovery. Therefore, I don't think it's long until we figure out the mechanisms that lead to homosexuality. Perhaps there is a gay gene, perhaps it is the hormones that are released during pregnancy. If it is genetic, then homosexuals that begin marrying en masse will no longer be in the reproducing population, and therefore, the gay gene will dwindle out of existence. If it is hormonal, then scientists will determine a way to counteract such an occurrence in the womb, perhaps in the form of a pill. Who knows? But my guess is that given the choice, most parents will opt to take a pill and ensure that their newborn will grow up to be heterosexual, because in the end, parents want to have grandkids."

On how Obama should tackle Iran: He should seek the grand bargain with the Iranians because it's the only smart option on the table. But first, he should help consummate a deal between Syria and Israel. The Syrians have been asking us for quite some time to be the backchannel negotiator in talks with Israel, but Bush has refused to play that role. Obama should shepherd this process along, because if and when he is successful, it will give him a great deal of political capital and credibility if he then turns his eye towards Iran. The last thing Iranian politicians want is for the US to ask them to sit down at the negotiating table for bilateral talks in good faith. The truth is that the Iranian people would like to see a deal, and Obama is just the kind of new face who could deliver. While the US lacks leverage, they will be able to depend heavily on the Europeans' support to get a deal made. Then, if Iran proves intransigent to a good faith agreement, Obama will have the leverage to take more severe measures without international backlash."

On Andrew Sullivan's pace of blogging: It's outrageous. I thought that once the election was over, his posting would die down a little, but the guy is just unstoppable. It wears me out."

On his father's application for a position in the Obama administration: "Sure, dad. You've been a lifelong Republican who has lived abroad for the past 30 years and you think you can just use your Chicago "connections" to get a low level post in the Energy Department? The man is clearly delusional. Knocking on some doors in Indiana is one thing, coming to DC for the inauguration without a ticket is another thing, but the idea that he could land this job is just pathetic. He's been drinking way too much of the Obama Kool-Aid and I am personally embarrassed by him."

On the European Market Cafe being closed on a Saturday at 11am: "What do you expect? Living up to their stated heritage, I suppose."

On the silver lining of universal healthcare: Look, I think universal healthcare is a bad idea because it comes at an outrageous cost yet will accomplish little. But the silver lining is this: though it will signal the decline of the U.S.'s absolute power, it will end up increasing the U.S.'s power relative to other countries, and relative power's the only type of power that really matters in the end anyway. The fact is that if Obama enacts any sort of universal healthcare plan, then he will surely implement stringent price controls which will bring down the costs of these prescription drugs and high-end medical procedures. That means that the drug companies and medical equipment companies will no longer be able to depend upon the largess of the American healthcare system to finance its R&D. Same, too, with the Europeans, who have been getting a free ride off of our healthcare system because we're the ones footing the bill for all the expensive technology and innovation in the field. So that means the Europeans will once again have to start paying for their share of medical innovation and we will be able to save vast amounts of money by no longer propping up the capital-intensive R&D labs. The down side, of course, is that we will slow our pace of medical discovery and potential cures for future generations. We are basically cutting funding for the discovery of technologies in the future in order to pay for today's health maladies for all. It's actually the opposite of 'progressive' when you think about it."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 WCL sees the world.

On Global Warming: "We have much bigger issues to worry about. The uproar over this issue is shockingly similar to the shrieking of the millenialists a few years back. Also, take a look at the weather patterns for the week after September 11, 2001 and get back to me. Then we can talk seriously about this issue."

On the End Days: "It doesn't take a whole lot to permanently damage human civilization. Don't get me wrong, humans will survive no matter what, but all it takes are one or two cataclysmic events to really wreak havoc. Maybe the food supply gets disrupted and famine breaks out. Perhaps the US's energy or technological infrastructure get disrupted for a few weeks. Whatever. If one of these disasters is sustained over a few weeks, then it will bring us to our knees. It will send us back to a pre-industrialized state. And once we're pre-industrial again, we can't retrace our footsteps of modern progress. We can't climb out of that hole. We can't recreate the technologies to pump the oil we need. We can't create renewable energy resources without the help of non-renewables at this point. And so we'll be stuck in a sort of pre-historic state forever. If you think about it, it's an elegant answer to Fermi's paradox. This will be a problem long before global warming begins taking its toll."

On the Newseum charging a $20 entrance fee: "They have some real fucking nerve."

On the Palin VP pick: "It's a fundamentally unserious choice. It's a farce. I sometimes think that McCain is keeping his charade of a campaign going just so that on the day before the election, he can give a press conference where he'll say, 'I ran this campaign as a total joke to test the American people, and they have failed that test.'"

On sushi: "Complete and utter yuppie bullshit."

On why same sex marriage is fundamentally dissimilar from plural marriage: "It may seem odd to us, but you must remember that until very recently, marriage was never about love. The Victorians are responsible for that [travesty]. Instead, marriage served as a means for passing along property, inheritance, social status. That remains fundamentally unchanged if you provide a legal avenue for same-sex marriage. Not so for plural marriage. And on a practical level, do you suggest that we could reform the legal system and tax code to accommodate multiple wives or husbands? It would be impossible."

On his 3D pictures of Mars' surface: "They are remarkable. I sometimes can't sleep because I'm so excited just thinking about them. That and the Hadron collider keep me awake at night."


Sunday, September 21, 2008

...Native Son (by Richard Wright).

If you’re ever feeling depressed and want to read a book to offset your sad mood, and someone recommends that you read Native Son, do not do it. Run the other direction. Pick up some light chick-lit, the kind with cursive writing on the cover and a picture of someone’s legs in high-heels. Because Native Son is the most viscerally upsetting and maddening and blood-curdlingly-infuriating book in the world. Depressing doesn’t even describe it. What is a word that conveys more active sadness than depressing? Anguish? Native Son makes you want to throw up because you are so mad at the world and so sad for Bigger Thomas, the doomed protagonist, and it makes you want to kill yourself for being complicit in the horrible, corrupt, hateful and oppressive world Wright describes. Native Son is almost like a dare to the reader. Wright is daring you to look at the gruesome reality he goes to great lengths to depict in too much detail. Wright doesn’t end a scene when you wish he would, he stays in the moment, observing the horrible details, at times making me skim through passages or skip ahead or turn my face away to wince and shake my head and just hope it would all be over soon. Bigger violently killing a huge rat. Bigger jerking off. Bigger smothering a girl to death. Bigger cutting off her head and burning her body. Bigger raping and murdering his girlfriend. And this is from the protagonist, with whom you sympathize the whole time! Because everyone else around Bigger is far worse, and you so desperately love Max when he swoops in – too late, of course – to try to explain to the white world why Bigger’s “crimes” shouldn’t be seen as crimes but instead as symptoms of the pathological culture of black poverty and oppression created by this white culture of 1930s Chicago that of course, wants to accuse and punish Bigger of crimes that it has defined and then set Bigger up to commit. The world Wright depicts is so infuriating and so accurate that the fact that this book came out in the1930s – and that Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day – descrbing black poverty in 1990s Chicago – came out in 2008, makes one believe that if Wright were alive today he’d be just as mad, and therefore there is no solace when one finishes reading Native Son – no solace in thinking “oh, well, that was in the 1930s, things are better now”, and therefore you hate yourself more and you hate the world and you yearn for a message of hope and how-to and you curse Richard Wright for forcing you to bear witness to this tragic opera of oppression and evil and for not telling you what to do to fix it and you curse the fact that it’s still broken, and none of this makes Native Son an “enjoyable” book but in fact makes it not so much relevant as mandatory.

...Half of a Yellow Sun (by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).

This may be the best book I have ever read by any living writer. And Adichie is only 30 – that’s right; born in 1977. That’s right, better than Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie. And forget your Zadie Smiths and Jhumpa Lahiris. This novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, makes me regret every second I’ve wasted reading Smith and Lahiri because if Adichie were writing about paint drying in the most boring office in the most boring city in Canada it would be more interesting than anything this side of The Kite Runner. The Kite Runner is actually not a bad comparison in terms of politico-historical objectives, but Adichie is a bold literary stylist and practitioner, whose chops are up to the task of her ambition. The writer that comes most to mind in comparison is Dostoevsky; the book that comes most to mind is John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman. These comparisons come to mind because Adichie sets the bar high, as it were – high enough that one might say “heck no, you can’t pull that off, you’re only 30 – and even if you pulled off 1/4 of what you’re trying to achieve, you’d have created something great.” And then she clears the bar, and sticks the landing, and wins the gold medal. She deserves a Nobel Prize. Half of a Yellow Sun is not a ‘nearly perfect’ book, it is a perfect book. It sweeps the reader up in a gripping plot cleverly choreographed but never seeming anything other than organic and real, full of love and mystery and potentially unreliable protagonists – but underneath these surface-level intrigues is an urgent political objective and history lesson, but of course never pedantic or didactic. The reader is literally enthralled in the story not only of our protagonists Ugwu, Olanna, Odenigbo, Kainene, and Richard, but of the Biafran war – a war that took place in the 60s, not long after Nigeria’s independence from Britain, during which Adichie was not alive. She aims to reveal the cruelty and suffering and post-colonial aftershocked corruption and geo-political collusion that basically let the Igbo people of the breakaway nation of Biafra starve and be massacred for three years, in a way that implicates the reader for never having known much about Biafra as well as the actual perpetrators behind the Biafra situation. Reading this book feels like a punch in the stomach, but you can’t look away, and you come away all the better for it.