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Hope is not too bright, and despair not too dark, when they remain so close to each other. Much of the story is framed as flashbacks while Ifemelu is having her hair braided for her return to Africa. She reflects on her early days in Nigeria, and her friendship with a young aunt who becomes mistress to a general. When power changes hands, that aunt leaves quickly, ending up in America. Ifemelu follows soon after. To her great good fortune, she lands a nanny job with a rich family.

She becomes involved with rich and educated men. Thus she has much experience with race and class, and she pulls all of that into a blog that becomes remarkably profitable.

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Meanwhile, Obinze, the love of her young life, experiences his own migration story, entering England legally but staying long after his visa expires. After living and working without documentation, he is deported. His fortunes rise in Nigeria as a successful businessman. He comes to see that his marriage, his family, even the way in which he makes money, do not reflect who he wishes to be. He seems not be living by the values his mother nurtured in him. Adichie reveals and explores a remarkable variety of issues here—race, color, class, shame, and trust.

I keep returning to the image of hair braiding as I consider how she does it, weaving together people, places, and politics. I tend to prefer novels that are pared down to just a very narrow chute. Adichie introduces all kinds of minor characters to push the story along. They leave as quickly as they appear. She also provides remarkable detail about clothing, about hair, especially African hair, and about food. It all seems a little messy, maybe too untidy, and yet it works.

I finished the book with the satisfying sense of a story well told, a better appreciation for the adjustments that immigration requires, and a distinctive view of race and class in America. It makes a perfect example of why I love reading the titles from the Notable Books List each year—I come across fabulous books that I would have missed otherwise. Basically this novel circles around an unnamed narrator and his two most important friends.

His ability to fit in, especially to mix among wealthy people, leads to a lifelong pattern of dishonesty. He meets the man who becomes his best friend in their college English class. That friend soon writes a fabulously successful novel, though his life is shadowed by addiction and mental illness.

Through that friend, the narrator meets the woman he loves but can never marry. Much of the energy in this novel is generated as the three of them come together, then fall apart. Each of the ten chapters could stand alone as a short story, focusing on a particular time and place. When should a writer betray a friend to further success? What are the chances for success when relationships are built on lies? How can broken friendships be mended? When is honesty required?

I was surprised by how readable this book was, given those heavy questions. Part of the pleasure in the reading was just learning where it would take up next. I have confessed before to my Pollyanna-ish hope that at last one person will learn and grow in a novel, and end up a better person.

So sometimes I would suddenly feel like I understood something new and important about the characters, and have to write a new chapter that happened before the others, to set that up Nice setting of the stage As I was writing, I was grappling with a lot of questions about fiction. I'd heard so many people dismiss fiction as "made-up" and I really believed and still do that it can be more truthful than non-fiction sometimes.

I must admit I'm not seeing them all but love the book anyway! So it reaches a lot of different levels of readers. Yes, those quotes really helped me figure those ideas out. Does this represent your own love of travel? I wanted people to read it and, if they didn't get some of the references, to still enjoy the book but also to maybe go and read up on the things they hadn't understood. Was watching on the site. I have spent time in North Carolina, although I did not grow up there, and I have been living in New York City for the past nine years….

All the research I did the hard way, online and in several! You hadn't been to those places What happend to "write what you know"? You know, that is some advice that I have always found very limiting! I tell my students to write what they want to know. I would have picked it up regardless of the story. The cover is so visually appealing.

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Those children are students, part of an orphanage that my father-in-law was volunteering with. They really helped me understand a lot about Ghana. I put it up on my bookshelf at home and it just fit right in. Then I went around to every bookstore I could find over the next few days and started taking pictures of it on the front table, with all the other books, and it just seemed perfect. But from there, they took off with it!

I know well enough to leave it to the experts! Sometimes they come out obscenely long, and then I have to cut them back down again, which is never easy…. With fiction, I can ease into it, but with non-fiction you have to come straight to your point. Slick like the keys on a typewriter - very clever. This is a little bit of a long story, but I think a good one if you can bear with me a moment So in I decided that I wanted to get back to short stories.

And if I kept to my schedule I would have 40 new stories by the end of the year…. And if I was ever late, I knew that some friend would email me and ask where the new story was Hayden us. That's the whole answer! The promo of you book is making use of social media. You can take a photograph of your copy of the book anywhere interesting and if you tweet about it with the leopardspotting hashtag, they will add it to spottedleopards. He told me he ran out of there as fast as he could — he was so terrified to meet his favorite writer.

Will you continue this project? I have an author friend who is doing something similar with his most recent novel - writing a chapter a week and posting it on his blog. And then one day Piers logged onto the site and started answering questions!


It was very surreal. After that, I wrote him several actual letters and told him I wanted to be a writer as well, and he wrote back and gave me a lot of advice! So now I embrace it myself too, as you can see! I really think the most incredible change is that, thanks to social media, readers and writers can connect to bookstores and other book-lovers so much more directly than we once could. So it really creates this genuine sense of community, which has always existed… we just never were so easily able to talk to one another until now!

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And did you always know you wanted to be a writer? I think it can be really helpful. Writing can be so isolating I am impressed by how visual you are. I'm going to post a few, beginning with that great Washington Square photo. Please tell us about them. I wanted to be a writer since I was in the 7th grade.

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My English teacher, Mrs. Inglis, was the first person to ever point out to me that there were people called writers who actually wrote books. As soon as I knew that, I was determined! When I was in college I took a class called "Landscape and Setting" with Jean McGarry, and she had us buy this book of his photographs and we wrote descriptions of the images in them. I seem to have lost it, but many of our readers will be familiar with Klimt's portrait. Beautiful imagery and I can see the inspiration for the chapter. And covered in gold leaf! Lucy, I can't say that exactly.

But I can say that the museum has a very nice Austrian Coffee Shop which might be the inspiration for Ludwig's Cafe in the first chapter! What have you learned about the nature of truth? It can appear to be malleable based on who is looking at it, and talking about it, and describing it. And this can be very frustrating. I think it can lead people, like the narrator in the middle of the book, to believe there is no such thing as truth at all Personally, i always found that one a bit of a cop out. I lived in Shrewsbury as a child.

My favorite part of the book was when the narrator became the journalism professor It's not alwayws what it's cracked up to be? Yes, I remember that one! I think, yes, there's just much more to the puzzle than that quote indicates. That wonderful Emily Dickinson quote about telling truth but slanted. Thanks so much to all who entered to win a Penguin Selects Boxed Set. Loved all the enthusiasm! Please send me a follow-up email at catherine. And yes, the part about the journalism professor was a LOT of fun to write. It was so incredibly different from how I actually am in a real classroom!

Thanks for enterting and for joining us today.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards Quotes by Kristopher Jansma

Great question. Besides literary fiction what story-styles appeal to you most? I taught a class once on classic Hardboiled Detective novels from the 20s and 30s. I've tried writing in that style but so far it doesn't quite turn out right. Maybe someday!

But I really admire writers who can do genres and make it literary too. My all-time favorite living writer is David Mitchell, who does that better than anyone. My friends always joke that I've "come to the end of television" because I can never find anything new to watch. But we are living through a real special time in the history of television.