Purple Hibiscus, A Window to the Universal Quest of Finding Yourself

Sandra Aka
Our parental upbringing can be shed away as we constantly transform back into the statehood of innocent and curious children. We only hope that countries are as receptive to change as the youth who inhabit them.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Published by Algonquin Books on April 17, 2012

Genres: Coming of Age, Family

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Although Purple Hibiscus is set in Nigeria, it gives readers a window to a universal quest common to all adolescents: carving out an identity in a world that makes the search for self no easy feat. With Nigeria still struggling to define itself since winning independence from the British in 1960, the stakes are even higher. How the youths define themselves plays a critical role in building Nigeria’s political and social ideologies.

Kambili Achike is a smart, quiet and withdrawn 15 year old girl who experiences the world through the strict Catholic rules of her father, Eugene. Eugene’s dominion over his family is an ode to the colonial invasion in Nigeria. He prevents his children from exploring the indigenous world that lays beyond the Western systems he has confined them to. When Kambili and her brother, Jeje, take their first trip away from home to Nsukka and meet Papa Nnukwu, Father Amadi and Aunty Ifeoma, they find unexpected peace and freedom.

Eugene, Papa Nnukwu, Father Amadi and Aunty Ifeoma represent different paths Kambili can follow to find her defined identity and as such, Nigeria, her own. The allegory between personal and national identity is important because it not only lifts this coming of age story beyond one of teenage discomfort, but it also highlights the political implications of the youths finding their true authentic voice.

My takeaway from Purple Hibiscus is that as long we are exposed to new ideas, we will continue to challenge the status quo and hence, redefine ourselves. Our parental upbringing can be shed away as we constantly transform back into the statehood of innocent and curious children. We only hope that countries are as receptive to change as the youth who inhabit them.

Sandra Aka is a 23 year old Dartmouth College graduate living on the lower east side of Manhattan. She describes her upbringing as the love child of multiple parent worlds; born in Cameroon and raised between Belgium, The Gambia and the United States. She was first inaugurated into the world of African literary masterpieces by way of ‘The Magic Calabash’ by Nana Grey Johnson and ‘Sizwe Bansi ‘is dead by Athol Fugard. Sandra aspires to become an established playwright and screenwriter and turn both original works and beloved books into cinematographic interpretations.

You can follow her on Instagram as @akasandraa.

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