Of Note: Life, Not School

Submitted By:
Jessica Flaxman, 120 Education Consultancy, Belmont, MA

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Knopf, May 01, 2021

Like so many, renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lost a beloved member of her family last year, and although she can't be sure that her father died of COVID-19 when he quickly passed away within three days of falling ill, she can't help but wonder. Author of Americanah, We Should All be Feminists, and The Danger of a Single Story, Adichie now offers a slim, salient story of 2020 in her most recent work, Notes on Grief. The book is short and fleeting, a perfect expression of the impossibility of finding the right words to express the incredulity, the permanence, and the weight of heartfelt loss. Because her father died during the early months of the pandemic, she could neither be by his side as he died nor travel to Nigeria to mark his passing. Her grief did not dissipate, but compounded: "Grief is a cruel kind of education," Adichie writes, "You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger." It is also a teacher, she argues, helping us to "learn how much grief is about language, the failure of language and the grasping for language." Notes includes haunting and heartening images – seeing her father's silent face and motionless body on Zoom, on the one hand, and vivid memories of his laughter, turns of phrase, and pride in his daughter's literary feats on the other. In Notes on Grief, Adichie concretizes what so many felt during the pandemic: that life, not school, is often where the hardest lessons are learned, and where adaptation is the true portal to survival.

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