The Education of a British-Protected Child

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 10/5/2010
  • Publisher: Anchor
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From the celebrated author ofThings Fall Apartcomes a new collection of autobiographical essays-his first new book in more than twenty years. Chinua Achebers"s characteristically eloquent and nuanced voice is everywhere present in these seventeen beautifully written pieces. From a vivid portrait of growing up in colonial Nigeria to considerations on the African-American Diaspora, from a glimpse into his extraordinary family life and his thoughts on the potent symbolism of President Obamars"s elections-this charmingly personal, intellectually disciplined, and steadfastly wise collection is an indispensable addition to the remarkable Achebe oeuvre.

Author Biography

Chinua Achebe is the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. He was, for over 15 years, the Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. He is the author of five novels, two short-story collections, and numerous other books. In 2007, Achebe was awarded the Man Booker International Prize. He lives with his wife in Providence, Rhode Island.

From the Hardcover edition.



All my life I have had to take account of the millionbdifferences—some little, others quite big—between the Nigerian culture into which I was born, and the domineering Westernbstyle that infiltrated and then invaded it. Nowhere is the difference more stark and startling than in the ability to ask a parent: “How many children do you have?” The right answer should be a rebuke: “Children are not livestock!” Or better still, silence, and carry on as if the question was never asked.

But things are changing and changing fast with us, and we have been making concession after concession even when the other party shows little sign of reciprocating. And so I have learned to answer questions that my father would not have touched with a bargepole. And to my shame let me add that I suspect I may even be enjoying it, to a certain extent!

My wife and I have four children—two daughters and two sons, a lovely balance further enhanced by the symmetry of their arrivals: girl, boy, boy, girl. Thus the girls had taken strategic positions in the family.

We, my wife and I, cut our teeth on parenthood with the first girl, Chinelo. Naturally, we made many blunders. But Chinelo was up to it. She taught us. At age four or thereabouts, she began to reflect back to us her experience of her world. One day she put it in words: “I am not black; I am brown.” We sat up and began to pay attention.

The first place our minds went was her nursery school, run by a bunch of white expatriate women. But inquiries to the school board returned only assurances. I continued sniffing around, which led me in the end to those expensive and colorful children’s books imported from Europe and displayed so seductively in the better supermarkets of Lagos.

Many parents like me, who never read children’s books in their own childhood, saw a chance to give to their children the blessings of modern civilization which they never had and grabbed it. But what I saw in many of the books was not civilization but condescension and even offensiveness.

Here, retold in my own words, is a mean story hiding behind the glamorous covers of a children’s book:

A white boy is playing with his kite in a beautiful open space on a clear summer’s day. In the background are lovely houses and gardens and tree-lined avenues. The wind is good and the little boy’s kite rises higher and higher and higher. It flies so high in the end that it gets caught under the tail of an airplane that just happens to be passing overhead at that very moment. Trailing the kite, the airplane flies on past cities and oceans and deserts. Finally it is flying over forests and jungles. We see wild animals in the forests and we see little round huts in the clearing. An African village.

For some reason, the kite untangles itself at this point and begins to fall while the airplane goes on its way. The kite falls and falls and finally comes to rest on top of a coconut tree.

A little black boy climbing the tree to pick a coconut beholds this strange and terrifying object sitting on top of the tree. He utters a piercing cry and literally falls off the tree.

His parents and their neighbors rush to the scene and discuss this apparition with great fear and trembling. In the end they send for the village witch doctor, who appears in his feathers with an entourage of drummers. He offers sacrifices and prayers and then sends his boldest man up the tree to bring down the object, which he does with appropriate reverence. The witch doctor then leads the village in a procession from the coconut tree to the village shrine, where the supernatural object is deposited and where it is worshipped to this day.

That was the most dramatic of the many imported, beautifully packaged, but demeaning readings available to our children, perhaps given them as birthday presents by their

Excerpted from The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays by Chinua Achebe
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Customer Reviews

Educational Textbook April 2, 2011
I bought this new textbook from ecampus and the price and book condition was excellent, i very rarely find essays satisfying, but since this was Achebe and it was a library check out, I went for it. I was hoping to learn more about this author and something of Nigeria. There were a few interesting moments such as Achebe's meeting Richard Wright and Langston Hughes, his views on Conrad, travel in Africa in the early 1960's and his impressions on high level literary or policy gatherings, but on the whole this textbook validates my feeling.
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The Education of a British-Protected Child: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.

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