Excerpt of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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Half a Yellow Sun
Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books
overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return
greetings, and had too much hair. Ugwu's aunty said this in a low voice
as they walked on the path. "But he is a good man," she added. "And as
long as you work well, you will eat well. You will even eat meat every
day." She stopped to spit; the saliva left her mouth with a sucking
sound and landed on the grass.
Ugwu did not believe that anybody, not even this master he was going to live with, ate meat every day.
He did not disagree with his aunty, though, because he was too choked
with expectation, too busy imagining his new life away from the
village. They had been walking for a while now, since they got off the
lorry at the motor park, and the afternoon sun burned the back of his
neck. But he did not mind. He was prepared to walk hours more in even
hotter sun. He had never seen anything like the streets that appeared
after they went past the university gates, streets so smooth and tarred
that he itched to lay his cheek down on them. He would never be able to
describe to his sister Anulika how the bungalows here were painted the
color of the sky and sat side by side like polite well-dressed men, how
the hedges separating them were trimmed so flat on top that they looked
like tables wrapped with leaves.
His aunty walked faster, her slippers making slap-slap
sounds that echoed in the silent street. Ugwu wondered if she, too,
could feel the coal tar getting hotter underneath, through her thin
soles. They went past a sign, ODIM STREET, and Ugwu mouthed street,
as he did whenever he saw an English word that was not too long. He
smelled something sweet, heady, as they walked into a compound, and was
sure it came from the white flowers clustered on the bushes at the
entrance. The bushes were shaped like slender hills. The lawn
glistened. Butterflies hovered above.
"I told Master you will learn everything fast, osiso-osiso,"
his aunty said. Ugwu nodded attentively although she had already told
him this many times, as often as she told him the story of how his good
fortune came about: While she was sweeping the corridor in the
mathematics department a week ago, she heard Master say that he needed
a houseboy to do his cleaning, and she immediately said she could help,
speaking before his typist or office messenger could offer to bring
"I will learn fast, Aunty," Ugwu said. He was staring
at the car in the garage; a strip of metal ran around its blue body
like a necklace.
"Remember, what you will answer whenever he calls you is Yes, sah!"
"Yes, sah!" Ugwu repeated.
were standing before the glass door. Ugwu held back from reaching out
to touch the cement wall, to see how different it would feel from the
mud walls of his mother's hut that still bore the faint patterns of
molding fingers. For a brief moment, he wished he were back there now,
in his mother's hut, under the dim coolness of the thatch roof; or in
his aunty's hut, the only one in the village with a corrugated iron
His aunty tapped on the glass. Ugwu could see the white curtains behind the door. A voice said, in English, "Yes? Come in."
took off their slippers before walking in. Ugwu had never seen a room
so wide. Despite the brown sofas arranged in a semicircle, the side
tables between them, the shelves crammed with books, and the center
table with a vase of red and white plastic flowers, the room still
seemed to have too much space. Master sat in an armchair, wearing a
singlet and a pair of shorts. He was not sitting upright but slanted, a
book covering his face, as though oblivious that he had just asked
"Good afternoon, sah! This is the child," Ugwu's aunty said.
looked up. His complexion was very dark, like old bark, and the hair
that covered his chest and legs was a lustrous, darker shade. He pulled
off his glasses. "The child?"
Excerpted from Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Copyright © 2006 by Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House,
Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.