Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer who divides her time between the U.S. and the land of her birth. She is a skilled novelist with important stories to tell. In The Thing Around Your Neck (Anchor, $15), her first collection of short fiction, she writes about the experiences of her fellow Nigerians, here and at home. In the title story a young woman comes to the U.S. and finds this is not the America of her dreams. Another woman lives in the lap of luxury in Philadelphia but learns from friends that her husband has moved another woman into their Lagos home. The sense of isolation and betrayal these women feel is palpable. Adichie makes real the fear of both the medical student fleeing a riot and the Muslim woman who shelters him in “A Private Experience.” The beauty of short-story collections is that they can be read one piece at a time—perfect for summer.
The best thing about Richard Cook’s Jazz Encyclopedia is that it is so opinionated. In the mostly biographical entries about jazz, he pulls no punches in his assessments. On the saxophonist Archie Shepp, “A few recent performances on record have been close to embarrassing. . . .” Along with these observations, he gives a comprehensive look at the music and provides an important recording at the end of each biographical entry. And there are explanations of musical terms that are part of the lexicon of jazz. It’s educational and fun!
The photograph on the cover is of a young shepherdess named Habiza from Burkina Faso. Hers is one of the dozens of portraits in the beautiful book. So many books on Africa focus on the wildlife, and this book contains some of those shots, it focuses more on the beauty of men and women from Namibia to Senegal. It’s a stunning book!