Explore the issues

Here are some ideas if you would like to…

…find out more about Nigeria

Consider reading some of the superb Nigerian fiction writers. ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe, ‘The Famished Road’ by Ben Okri, anything by Chris Abani and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – all of these will give an idea of the depth and complexity of Nigeria. There is also a new generation of lesser-known Nigerian writers who are nonetheless excellent. One of my favourite recent novels is ‘I Do Not Come To You By Chance’, by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, which I review here.

Consider taking a look at Nigeria’s history. As with the history of any country, this is best done using multiple sources since it is very contentious. Online, for example, if you compare the historical sketches given in motherlandnigeria.com and wikipedia, you will begin to see how much is disputed. I have found the following books useful. For insights into colonial exploitation, even though not directly relating to Nigeria, ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’ by Adam Hochschild is very readable. ‘The Trouble With Nigeria’ by Chinua Achebe is a good history and present-state examination. ‘The Crippled Giant’ by Eghosa E Osaghae is excellent.

Best of all, it is enlightening to read the views of Nigerians, inside and outside Nigeria, talking about the country. The academic and blogger Bemgba Nyakuma got in touch through this website and I asked: “If you had to suggest some websites that someone who didn’t know Nigeria really ought to read, what would they be?”. He suggested the following, which I think are all excellent (the last one is Bemgba’s own):

  1. Africa Unchained
  2. Nigerian Curiosity
  3. Musings of a Naijaman
  4. Deliciously Swanky
  5. Naijablog
  6. Bem’s Haven

If you have some more suggestions, please let me know.


This is a slideshow of photos of Nigeria from the NGflickr group on Flickr, which is certainly worth visiting. For more images of Nigeria, try searching Flickr by country or by city.


…find out more about oil drilling in the Niger Delta

This is the part of Nigeria that Little Bee comes from.

First of all, take a look at this Flickr slideshow showing images of oil exploration in the Delta, or watch the video on the right, which was made by Friends of the Earth to highlight the environmental and human cost of Western oil companies’ exploitation of the region.

Next, visit this excellent website dedicated to keeping alive the memory and work of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian government in 1995 for campaigning against the rape of his homeland by Western oil companies. Saro-Wiwa’s writing, in particular ‘Sozaboy‘ and ‘A Month and a Day’, is an eye-opener to say the least.

…find out more about refugees and asylum seekers

For a chilling insight into the scale of immigration detention, take a look at the Global Detention Project. Next I recommend two extraordinary non-fiction books as a good entry point to start thinking about what it means to be a refugee, and what refugees from conflict can expect. The first is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, a veteran of the conflict in Sierra Leone. The second is Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees by Caroline Moorehead, an excellent and dedicated journalist.

And for fiction, What is the What by Dave Eggers is superb.

…help refugees and asylum seekers

If you would like to help refugees and asylum seekers, there is likely to be a group close to you. If there isn’t, you might consider starting one – you will certainly find help, encouragement and resources from existing groups in your country and around the world. Here are some good starting points to get involved:

In the USA, The Asylum & Refugee Protection program at Human Rights First.

In the UK, Refugee Action is a passionate and tireless group with excellent information to get you started.

In Australia, I’ve been told that Amnesty International’s refugee awareness program is very effective.

If readers in other countries could use the comments facility on this page to give links to their local organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers, I will gratefully incorporate them into this page. Many thanks.

40 Comments

  1. What a rich post chock full of information. Thank you so much for sharing. Thanks also to yourself and Bem for recommending my Nigerian Curiosity blog. I am truly appreciative.

    Off to read up on these links you have shared so as to gain some more awareness. No matter what I think I know about Nigeria and despite the fact that I write about Nigeria everyday, there is so much more about the nation, and the continent, I am curious to know.

    Take care. Your site has been bookmarked.

  2. While reading Little Bee I was reminded of a young woman’s story I read years ago in the book Do They Hear You When You Cry? Fauziya Kassindja was 17 y/o when she entered the U.S. from Togo. She was escaping a forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Upon entering the U.S. she was incarcerated and treated like a criminal. You can read about her story at http://www.pbs.org/speaktruthtopower/fauziya.html

  3. Have just read ‘the other hand’, then ending brought tears to my eyes. This book is a reminder of the apathy in which we live, where no one really cares or even wants to know. We are all ostriches with our heads buried safely in the sand but then, are we really breathing at all? thank you for the wake up.

  4. Does anyone know of organizations or links to help asylum seekers and refugees in Canada?

  5. The book “Little Bee” was unbelievable, I had not idea what it was about. I read it in two days. How naive I was to such things. Thank you for sharing. I am going to help asylum seekers here in the US.

  6. Finished reading Little Bee- never has a book left such a mammoth footprint in my heart. Thank you for doing this so beautifully.

  7. Just finished the book, Little Bee, an amazing read. So well written and thought provoking. I have put a couple of links to this page on my recommendation that people read the book on my Facebook page.
    The whole idea that the Dutch company is running the detention centers and the repatriation while Royal Dutch Shell is responsible for much of the problems in Nigeria….gave me chillbumps!

  8. Just finished reading The Other Hand,never been so touched by a book.I,m a Nigerian and shivering this moment for all who’re in this same situation as Little Bee,.I,d like to jelp in anyway I can.
    Shall be getting in touch with the rigt people immidiately.

  9. Thank you for your interesting book. I will be leading a discussion of it and appreciate the web site. Thank you, Carolyn

  10. Yesterday I was in the doctor’s office reading Little Bee and quietly tears just eked out and blood pressure was up. Apparently I do not have good fiction trauma filters because I felt I was in the story and its so very sad and terrifying in different moments. I am not sure how to live with the trauma of people in the book and in the world of humanity. How many real livelihoods are creating violence beyond my imagination in securing the oil and gas resources? I become aware of issues I do not want to know and add to my consciousness yet like Sarah’s trip to a Nigeria beach in a bikini, unexpected events happen. Little Bee always looked for her suicide route to avoid being retraumatized everywhere she went, my unknown sister in fear of the Men who can hurt, the baddies that have so much power. Illegal immigration issue is becoming hot and mean here in my rural world. Where once African slaves were forced to come in boats and serve agriculture in the south, now they want to deport Mexican and Central American voluntary”illegal” immigrants from coming to work. I feel the rage growing against displaced people seeking to make a life for themselves unless they follow the laws that are impossible for them to obey and stay. The story of Little Bee’s sister, well, I do not have words. I appreciate the follow up information and the pictures to help me widen my sense of Nigeria as a place in real time. I have been asleep to Nigeria’s situation but ready or not, Little Bee was an unexpected story wake up call to soul.

  11. hi… i read this book in two days …but i am very sad about andrew….everybody won something in this book but he lost everything….why?? i dont understand ..lawrence won to sarah,sarah won the llittle bee and lawrence,little bee won the sarah and sarah’s son….. i could see you smashed him life your words .. and you did not gave a chance to him in your book…when he need to her wife,sarah cheatted him with lawrence so i am very angry to sarah ….sorry but i feel this ….. i can wiret lot of words about this book but i know that will not be important …. good luck chris

  12. Hi Mehmet. Thank you for reading my book and thank you for your comments. I agree with you about Andrew. What I’ve said in the Q&A on this website (and in the reading group guide to the book) is this: “Andrew isn’t such a bad guy. What he fails to do on the beach is what most people would probably fail to do, myself included. Once Andrew realizes he’s made the wrong choice, it’s too late for him because the moment has passed and he is condemned to spend the rest of his days regretting that he failed life’s test. Sarah is lucky, really. She’s not inherently more moral than her husband, but just at that one critical moment she happened to do the right thing. This means that she can look back on her actions on the beach without too much guilt or shame. She can move on with the rest of her life while Andrew must enter a terminal decline. It’s ironic because Sarah’s infidelity is the reason the couple find themselves on the beach in the first place. And yet her premeditated affair goes unpunished by life, while Andrew’s momentary failure of courage dooms him forever. Life is savagely unfair. It ignores our deep-seated convictions and places a disproportionate emphasis on the decisions we make in split seconds.”

  13. thanks to your answer chris…..yes i know life is not fair to everybody …but i read some comments about your books…a lot of comments about sarah or little bee..you did not wrote two characters in this book…it also has other characters especialy andrew..yes mainly you wanted to tell about some problems about nigeria but also you wrote five life in this book….i hope you understand me ….realy i liked two charecters who are andrew and him son because they did not thought themselves anyway i will read your other books ….take care chris ….

  14. I so enjoyed your book, “Little Bee”…enjoyed is a hard word in this context. I plan to give this book away as gifts to many friends & family…to remind people of the great damage that oil companies have caused to countries like Nigeria. Some of my questions were answered in your Author Q & A page. Your description of Nikiruka’s murder was so horrendous that I wonder whether it was based on any written or verbal testimony. Though I live in neighboring Indiana, I hope I will be able to attend the day when you will be in a Chicago, IL book store or at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Relations. Thank you for Little Bee’s Story. I wish Simon & Schuster had given us more challenging discussion questions. Charlotte Brauer

  15. I have now read both your books, and found them profoundly disturbing, but also very true to life. I have been married for more than 20 years to someone who was a refugee claimant from Ghana, and who lived in Nigeria before coming to Canada. At least we don’t incarcerate refugee claimants, or supposedly illegal immigrants, but there are horror stories here, too. I taught in inner-city Toronto for all of my career, so I saw much of the heartbreak and distress in not onlythe West Indian and African immigrant communities, but many others as well.
    It seemed also that you were taking a poke at white middle class naivete as well in both your books–since we don’t fare very well when we try to do things only our way in other cultures or communities either at home or abroad.
    I look forward to reading more of your work . . .

  16. Dear Chris Clave
    I’ve read your book,”Little Bee” it was amazing. I am an assistant at a university in Turkey at the department of English Language and Literature and I want to prepare my master thesis on this book,I want to take your permission and ideas on this issue. If you accept I even want to talk about your online or book face to face with you…I look forward to see your answer…

  17. Hi özlem, thank you very much for your kind words. I’m delighted you liked the book. If you have any questions, you can post them here and I will be happy to answer them.

  18. Ok Chris. You wrote this book, so you are getting these questions. Or in other words, thank you for having insight into the way the world works, I am really struggling with these issues, can you please help me since there are very few people I can ask for help with this.

    1. First, I think the novel should be called “The Other Hand” b/c WHY did Sarah not offer to cut off the middle finger of her other hand to save Nkiruka? I’m sure it’s easier said than done but after all it is our countries’ thirst for power and resources that is causing mass deaths in Africa anyway, really it’s the least any of us can do to atone!
    2. The description of what happened to Nkiruka – why on earth did you write that? Does that in fact happen to some of the women? If so I understand why you put that in there. I just need to know if that really does happen.
    3. The statement “the horror of being alive in a world where atrocities happen” explains EXACTLY my situation since giving birth to my son, now 3. His birth illuminated in sharp relief what kind of world I had just brought him into. Since then I have read and researched and struggled very much with the inability to reconcile the innocence of children with the evil of this world. I have decided that this world is hell. There is absolutely far more “horror than happiness.” I don’t want to die, am not planning on suicide in any way, however I do so want to escape this horrible place and take all good people with me. I feel like there are many of us more enlightened who would never support war and genocide and who place human rights above all else – if only there were some advanced alien planet where we could go, filled with a kinder gentler way of life. The song “subterranean homesick alien” (radiohead) resonates so much for this reason! I fell horrified that i have brought my innocent son here. But he is his own whole soul and has the right to make his own choices and face this life. I just hate that there is no way to protect children until they are old enough to really have a fighting chance. We are lucky b/c we are Americans not living in abject poverty. But I often am haunted by the knowledge of the suffering of innocent children and people all over the globe, largely due to actions taken by the oligarchs of my and other countries. There is almost no way to find balance. If you forget so you can enjoy your life then you are not fighting the evil and are allowing it to continue uncontested. If you keep your focus on the impossible evil & fighting it, it will swallow you up & then you will harm your family by not being there for them which is the dumbest thing to do of all, in my opinion.
    After writing something like Little Bee, how do you go back to your privileged life and write screenplays? I ask b/c we all do that in our own way, especially us westerners. The suffering for our lifestyles is largely outsourced. What are we to do? Of course there is localize, make/grow your own, detach from the vampiric Empire with our purchasing power as much as possible but just derailing from the workings of our society to create a new society is unfortunately not so blithely done.
    I can’t believe, as you said, that evil will never be gone. I have to believe it can end or at least be eradicated into the minority of life rather than taking up the majority. This book isn’t just a book, it’s a reality, one that we are complicit in. It drives me crazy all the detached discussion about it as “a great book.” Dont’ get me wrong, it is a great book, but we should be focusing on the subject matter and the atrocities going on right now rather than how you chose your narrative style etc. I know we are just human beings trying to live our lives as best we can but at some point don’t we just have to stop & yell “Jesus Christ people – children! are being murdered, tortured, RIGHT NOW, and we are complicit!”
    How are we to cope with this and reconcile it? I personally have to let it fade away to surreality, like a dream i had last night or something, otherwise i just feel misery at “the horror of being alive in a world where atrocities happen” and i want to not exist in this hell nor do i want any children or good people in it either.

    Thanks for reading this, if you do. Feel free to email me if you’d rather not discuss in this forum.
    Best regards
    Laura

  19. Hi Laura, thanks for posting your message. I struggle with this stuff too. With regard to your point 2, I’m afraid that yes, that kind of thing – and worse – happens every day. I was trying to write a scene that showed how refugees are often in real fear of a horror from which they have fled, and that they cannot be dismissed as “economic migrants.”

    With regard to your point 3, you ask how I can go back to my privileged life and write screenplays, or how I can engage in a detached discussion about narrative style, etc. Well, I do keep on writing, because that’s how I’ve decided to work. I suppose I could abandon the writing and become a campaigner on these issues, but there are already a great many excellent campaigners, and who is to say that I would be more effective than they are? I could also go into journalism and report the stories directly, but I can make a similar argument against my doing that. So I decide to keep on doing what I do, and if people want to ask me technical questions about writing, I’m happy to answer them just as I am happy to answer questions about the issues I write on.

    I agree with much of what you write about the horror of the world. I wouldn’t say that this world is “hell”, though. I focus on the observable reality that a majority of the world’s population lives in poverty and suffering, while much of that poverty and suffering could be alleviated quite simply were the richer parts of the world to change their behavior. I try to write engagingly about that reality, in the belief that reality should be more compelling than reality TV. I think if I can persuade people that these issues are important, then they will engage with the democratic process and elect lawmakers who include human rights and corporate regulation in their platform. That’s how I cope with the world – by trying in my limited way to be a positive influence. I think that’s how a lot of people cope – by donating money, by volunteering for charities and so forth, each in their own way and to the limit of their capacity. I don’t necessarily think we can fix the world, but I am convinced that we should die trying.

  20. Hey Chris,
    I read the book Little Bee a month ago and i really loved the book but now i have an exam and there is one question that we got so i need ur help can u please give me some suggestions abut that question that would be great here is my question:

    Imagine you are the one of the character from the novel Little Bee. If this character could make one selfless wish for the world they inhibit, what would be that wish be? Write in this character’s voice in your response. Here is the examples that our teacher gave it to us to talked about in our response (Values, Norms, Political Realities).

    Here is the question pl give me some good points that i can use in my response and yeah my exam is tomorrow so that would be great if u sent me an email or just talked about here in the forum and yeah also suggest what character should i pick but according to me i thin that Little Bee would be great but should tell me…. thnx a lot and yeah pl reply me as soon as possible i have an exam tomorrow

  21. Hi Iqra, I admire your initiative in enlisting me to help with your exam question. You are going to go far in this life! Okay, since you have to write your response in the character’s voice, I reckon you should choose a character whose voice you will find easy to write. Yvette is pretty hard to write, Batman/Charlie is hard unless you have a 3-year-old kid in your life, and actually Little Bee’s voice is quite hard to get right too. Lawrence is hard to write unless you’ve spent a lot of time with awful people, which hopefully for you, you haven’t. I’d suggest using one of the characters with a more straightforward voice – maybe Sarah or Andrew. The key to writing in Andrew’s voice is to remember that he can’t forgive himself for not saving the girls on the beach, so his tone will be full of regret. The key to Sarah is that she is frightened of what she might become if she lets herself be carried on the cynical tide of her career, so her voice has a note of anger and sharp resistance in it. In terms of selfless wishes, Andrew might wish that life judged people for what they believed in, and not for the way they acted in a split second. Or he might wish that life gave people more second chances. Sarah might wish that the people who read magazines cared more about reality than about reality TV, or that they cared more about heroes than celebrities. Or she might simply wish that so much of the world was not a conflict zone. Or she might wish that children never have to experience the violence carried out by adults. There are all kinds of useful wishes you could give them. If those ideas don’t appeal, you might consider playing a wild card and picking one of the minor characters in the book. For example, I’ve often thought it would be interesting to use the leader of the gang of armed men who encounter Sarah, Andrew, Little Bee and her sister on the beach. He is actually quite a deep and conflicted character, and it would be fascinating to think about what his wish for the world might be. Hope that helps. Good luck with your exam – if you get a minute, why not let us know what you decided to do for it?

  22. You are amazing! Not only have you written a book that captivates the reader while, at the same time, educating him but you obviously share your time and your ideas freely with your readers, as exemplified by your responses to the above posts. There is no need for you to take time to respond to me. I am just very happy that my book club selected Little Bee for our February discussion and that you have provided excellent materials for further research on this site. I will be reading Incendiary before long! Thanks for creating such memorable characters and sharing such an important story. Best of luck with your future endeavors! (I especially loved Charlie….I have two 3-yr. old grandchildren and am constantly amazed at their imaginations!)

  23. Thanks Chris,
    I really appreciated that u reply me. Thanks a lot and yeah my exam went really good and u helped me a lot but actually i am in Canada and i think u are living in england so my time did not match with yours time so i checked it before my exams but i did not get a chance to read this response thoroughly but i am really thankful to you that u gave me a good responses for my exam and yeah in my exam i actually choose Little Bee voice because i think that i can relate my life to her life. its actually a comparison response so i think i did a good job and hopefully i can get good marks in it. but thanks a lot and ur novel is great and story is also great…

    Iqra

  24. Dear Chris, I love reading books written by and about Nigerians. So I was very happy when I came across your novel in a bookstore in Zurich the other day. My husband is Nigerian and I have been to Nigeria several times. fortunately nothing bad has ever happened to me when I was there, but we have not traveled to the East for the past five years for security reasons. I planned to give your book to my mother for her birthday, but after reading it I have to change my mind. She couldn’t get a wink of sleep if I ever went to Nigeria again with our two children after reading your story. it is even difficult for myself to realise that not even children are save when the worst comes to the worst. but nevertheless, thank you so much for this excellent story!

  25. Hi Roseline, thank you for your very kind message. One day I’m hoping to publish an essay I’ve been working on about all the positive aspects of Nigeria and Nigerian culture that I learned while I was researching the book, and that people have written to tell me about since the book was published. It’s true that the atrocity in the novel happens in Nigeria, but as you know of course the majority of Nigeria is at peace. There are areas of my own country, the UK, that are very troubled and not the safest places either. One of my regrets with the book is that I perhaps did not sufficiently stress that the scenes I wrote were not representative of the whole country. At the time of writing I didn’t think I needed to do that (after all, when I write about a violent scene in the UK I don’t feel the need to remind people that not all of the UK is like that), but there are particular sensitivities in this case that maybe I should have been more alert to.

  26. dear Chris,
    The affair between Lawrence and Sarah in the novel seemed somewhat reminiscent of the affair in Greene’s “End of the Affair,” in that the judgment of the reader seems oddly suspended or overcome by the greater innate goodness and basic humanity of the two Sarahs. In Greene’s novel we are ultimately faced with the prospect that Sarah is indeed a saint, despite her long adulterous relationship with Bendrix. Her soul, though tainted, seems clearly touched by an unquestioned devotion to God and purity of heart. It seems to be an undeniable theme of the novel. Your novel, too, presents a woman who continuously lies and betrays her husband, even after confessing and being re-trusted by Andrew. Yet despite this trust and confession, she continues the sin. Yet, this “sin” is not nearly as palpable in the novel as the good that she seems determined to accomplish. Her bravery on the beach, and her breathtaking determination in the end seem to speak much more loudly than the adultery which she cannot seem to end. Since both Sarahs are truly brave and selfless as well as pure of heart, it begs us to introspect deeply as to the true nature of sin. Is it possible that we should be thinking that the good that we do in many ways outshines the trespasses that we commit against others? Is mankind capable of a sort of sullied sainthood where our shortcomings can really be neutralized by our actions? Andrew, too, in the end, acts to compensate the universe in his final doomed journalistic undertaking. That too is a sort of bravery. Many could have been saved by this effort. Inspiring to think that we are not doomed by our failures. Am I reading too much into this? A beautifully written novel, by the way!

  27. dear Chris, thank you so much for your reply. yes, that is true indeed, if you talk about the UK you do not have to emphasize on the positive aspects so much because everybody knows that they exist. but Nigeria is mostly in the news for negative things. Africa in general is. Famine, Aids, atrocities, civil wars… there is not much said about the positive aspects. another reason for my love for Adichie’s purple hibiscus: she just talks about the ‘normal life’. but nevermind, your story is still brilliant and I learnt a lot about the situation of asylum seekers in the UK. take care. r.

  28. Dear Chris,
    Firstly I would like to thank you for writing such an incredible book. Secondly I wanted you to know that I was so inspired by ‘The Other Hand’ that I have chosen to write my Masters Dissertation on it. I’m at the University of Manchester doing a masters in Post-1900 English Literature and my thesis will be on ‘The Other Hand’, the presence of oil companies in Nigeria and the relation between aesthetics and politics. I want to write about the power of literature to change the way we think and how novels that are not necessarily didactic are sometimes the most thought-provoking and powerful of all.
    So, really I just wanted to say thanks for changing my life and potentially my career as I’m now determined to research the journalism and reports from the Nigerian oil wars. I look forward to reading more of your brilliant work. Katy.

  29. Hi Chris,
    A blast from the past!! I am still plugging your wonderful novel at every opportunity – I still say, truthfully, that it is the best book I have ever read. The reason for this note is to inform you that after six years if fighting my Jamaican friend has finally been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. Thank you for your encouragement in the darkest of times.
    John

  30. I just read your book Little Bee for our book club. I had no idea that this happened in Nigeria. I want to know how they (corporations) can get away with this? Isn’t there a “watchdog: so to speak in our world who can stop this from happening? Also does the oil companies pay the families so they be relocated if they chose too? Are any of these people, companies brought up on criminal charges for the murder of these innocent people? This is another form of holocaust as far as I see it the killing of innocent people for oil by Big Greedy oil corporations. I don’t know how they can sleep at night. If there is a god I hope he makes people like this pay.

  31. Hi Chris, I’ve just finished reading “the other hand” and Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart” is next on my reading pile! I just wanted to tell you how moving your writing is, how eye-opening Udo’s story is to the harsh realities that are the bitter oil wars and their innocent victims. I will be reading more into the issues raised in your book. The final pages made me cry as Little Bee watched Charlie, also when Little Bee was on the plane looking out of the window and her friends were there with her. One of my newest friends is half Nigerian, she is a very strong person and great with children – just like Little Bee is with Charlie! As an aspiring writer myself, I’d love to be able to arrange words as powerfully as you do in your writing… Amazing book, I pronounce it “un-put-down-able” as well as agreeing with the quotes from the newspapers reviews on the cover :) thank you very much, I’ll have to take “incendiary” on holiday, it’s one of those books that always catches my eye in bookshops… Best wishes, Jo

  32. Hi,
    I am using this book in an English writing and fiction course I am teaching. The students love the book and have lots of questions. One is why does Yevette speak in such a mocking tone to Little Bee. What is the significance of her being from Jamaica and Little Bee being from Nigeria? What is her perception of Little Bee because she is from Nigeria?
    Thanks so much,

    Mary

  33. I wanted to ask why you ended “Little Bee” the way you did? I feel like there is something missing. Was the reader supposed to guess that Little Bee was taken away by the armed men and put in prison or killed? I really liked the story but I was left hanging at the end.

  34. Thank you for writing this amazing and powerful book. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. However, the ending left me wanting more. I still am thinking about what happened to Little Bee. I had tears of joy when Sarah and Charlie boarded the plane with Little Bee, yet at the end of the book, she was taken away by the soldiers leaving me in tears of sadness.

    Thank you for posting this wealth of information. After reading the book, I wanted to read about issues your book explores and your website provided me with a great start.

  35. i just finished “the other hand”…i don’t know when a book has moved me so…however, i am overwhelmed with sadness i can’t seem to shake…the end was very disturbing, probably because i am used to “happy endings”…thank you for a great read

  36. Hi Chris,

    I am an English and History student from Germany and I am planning to write a term paper about the depiction of the detention center in “Little Bee.” The seminar is about total institutions in general and at the moment we are reading several scientific texts about total institutions (e.g. Goffman) and there are a lot of aspects that remind me of “Little Bee.”
    I already looked through your recommandated links, but I am unable to find anything about the towels, it would be great of you to tell me where I can find the transcript of Loraine Bayley about the fire at Yarl’s Wood you mentioned in the notes. If you have any other articles or sources you used for the specification of the detention center, I would of course also be greatful for that, too.
    I think the message of your book is really great and we should do more to help those in need.

    Best regards and greetings from Germany.

  37. Hi Chris,

    I work for a refugee organisation and am soon going into schools to talk about the issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers. I am looking for videos by refugee children about their experiences and it seems as though you used to have some by the Refugee Council on your website, but I’m told the website given is “not found” when I try to access it. Can you recommend any?

    The Other Hand was by far one of the best novels I have ever read, and further cemented my determination to work to help refugees and asylum seekers. Thank you, this beautiful book literally did change my life.

    Anna

  38. Hi Chris,
    I have to say your book has had a surprising affect on me in too many ways to explain. I am intrigued with the way you chose to write it, with two narrators. It gave it extra suspense, something I love/ hate all at the same time.
    As a class we were asked by my teacher to choose a book with an underlining of some sort of world issue. We would then have to pick out the issue/theme and write a proposal paper on it. I ultimately chose your book. A decision I am very pleased with because I have nothing but good to say in regards to your writing techniques.
    The problem I am facing is that with reading Little Bee and trying to pick out an issue I was hit with something unexpected, I guess one could say. It is clear that your aims were to bring awareness to asylum seekers and the oil drilling in Nigeria. But throughout reading your novel, when I put it down, even for a second, I couldn’t shake the sentence Little Bee repeated so often in the beginning of your novel. “The men, they came and they…” (I should also say that with Little Bee’s proposal for the reader to agree with her about scars & beauty, in many ways made me understands her. Like she brought me to her level and made it easier for me to imagine walking in her shoes.) And then I was affected again with suicide of Andrew, realising that you had to eliminate his character to go on with your vision. But I was always brought back to these things. With all the emotions you covered and did a great job at making your readers experience as well. I couldn’t shake the theme of “Suicide.” I started to “THINK outside the box”)… I started asking myself questions like; what makes me think I am a good person?…What have we all truly done to consider ourselves good?…Then became the fun and confusing questions! (reason why im writing you in the first place. Ps- sorry this is getting quite long :) Why is it that our society expeditiously perceives such a broad topic (suicide) as entirely negative?
    The research for this question and the point I am trying to make is far too difficult to meet my deadline so I’ve changed it up a bit, based on themes I got from your novel…When is suicide morally acceptable?
    I would love to hear your opinions/views about this? I’m in ways at a barrier and don’t know how to continue with my research. But I thought, what the hell might as well go to the source for a little insight. There’s so much more I got from your book that is soo different from other readers perspectives that I’d love to address to you in the future. But for now I’ll keep it SHORT and sweet.<– my attempt at sarcasm
    Thank you for your time,
    Denika S.

  39. Dear Chris,

    I read your book after hearing rave reviews from my friends. They were especially excited about me reading it because I am Nigerian, and I’m always one for reading books that deal with or originate from my country. First of all I found your portrayal of the treatment of refugees in the UK, very interesting. It is a subject that is rarely talked about and there is need for people to know the atrocities that occur behind closed doors.

    All in all however, I was very disappointed with this story. As a Nigerian, I feel that your book demonstrated little research. Any African country’s name could have been inserted into this book and it would not have made a difference. Knowing that you had lived in Cameroon, I had hoped for something different. In fact, you would have done better to come up with a fictional African country or perhaps just an unidentified one. Aside from the Niger delta crisis backdrop, (which was not fully fleshed out at all) the only indication that this book was dealing with Nigeria was the occasional “wahala” or you stating it. Many reviewers gushed about how they loved little bee’s accent and her use of “Weh”, I however was confused. What does Weh mean? I have never heard a Nigerian utter that in my life, and I asked other Nigerians to verify. What I love about reading Nigerian literature is that I can hear the story as well as read it. Ours is an oral culture and authors like Chimamanda Adichie exemplify this by coloring their writing with Nigerian idioms and words which allow you to hear Nigeria as well as read about it. I could not hear Nigeria in your story. I heard a mediocre attempt to sound African, much like the generic deep accents that pass as African in Hollywood.

    Please know that I don’t doubt your writing abilities, and I respect the huge feat that is writing a novel; however failing to do research on a country like Nigeria is extremely problematic. Black people and people of color in general already have the unfortunate burden of being represented by one image, so your book serves to reinforce the notion of Africa as a savage jungle. The Nigeria in your books was a country that even I did not want to visit. It was a country where soldiers shot at children for no apparent reason. Or where despite the large level of corruption and poor governance, they would take the time hunt down an inconsequential refugee from Abuja to the delta region (a distance which you portrayed as merely a few hours). In fact, one of my American friends who recommended this book to me, was baffled as to why I was going to Nigeria on holidays after reading Little Bee. She was genuinely terrified by the barbaric country and that hurt me. But I couldn’t blame her.

    I must thank you for this page, explore the issues, and the fact that you have pointed audiences to Nigerian fiction, and additional research. I appreciate it. What saddens me is that the Nigeria in stories such as Adichie’s is the real Nigeria, yet more people will read your story and assume Nigeria is a place to avoid and write off. I cannot stress the importance and responsibility that foreign writers such as yourself have when it comes to writing about Africa. If you feel the need to do it, make sure you get it right, because that is what the World will believe. There is evil in every country but one must present it in a holistic manner. I encourage you to watch Adichie’s vidoe on “The dangers of a single story,” which deals with the stereotypical representation of primarily African people.

    Thank you for your time. I would not have written were it not for the dearth of people who had anything to say about the portrayal of Nigeria in your novel. Most people just accepted it as truth. Again, this is not personal and I commend you for even taking an interest in Nigeria. I hope you reply me, but again I am just one voice in the floods of praise about this book.

    Take care,
    Iwa

  40. Dear Chris,

    I just finished reading Little Bee today. I started it yesterday but found it so compelling that I sat in a coffeeshop today weeping hoping that somehow Little Bee, Sarah and Charlie would all survive and wondering what I would exhibit in my “beach moment”.

    I live in Canada and used to work in a shelter assisting refugees to settle while they waited to hear whether their applications had been accepted. Unfortunately our government has changed and has made our healthcare infinitely more limited for refugees. This happened last June and doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers and activists took to the streets in protest. Unfortunately there has been no change to the legislation thus far.

    Your earlier correspondent asked about organizations that assisted refugees. It has been a while since I have worked in the area but here are some suggestions. As Toronto is one of the major refugee portals in Canada I recommend that people wishing to volunteer go to the following website for agencies servicing immigrants and refugees. http://www.211toronto.ca. If they live in Toronto they can just call 211 to speak to somebody for assistance. There are lots of places but some to start with might be Amnesty International, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Canadian Red Cross, Romero House, the Quaker Centre for Refugees, Mennonite Central Committee, Refugee and Immigrant Centre (416) 961-7027. Their contact information can all be found on that website or by simply dialing 211.

    For Nigerian specific agencies here is a contact in Etobicoke (The west end of Toronto). Yoruba, Edo, Hausa and Ibo are spoken at this organization.
    Yoruba Community Association
    351A Albion Rd, Toronto, ON, M9W 3P3
    Phone
    416-979-8364
    Fax
    416-979-3422
    infoweb@yorubasincanada.org
    http://www.yorubasincanada.org

    I hope this is helpful. Your book was beautiful and witty and agonizing and very, very moving. Should anyone ask you again why you write instead of campaigning let me tell you why I think you should write. As somebody who reads a great deal of non-fiction your book conjured up people to me in a way that statistics never could. I found myself in the grocery store thinking about the real world Little Bees I affect by how the choices I make have the consequence of more oil being used. It is not that I would give up reading non-fiction. It is a vital adjunct. But the compassion that results from reading good fiction can create action in people in a way that all the didacticism in the world cannot.

    You have an extraordinary gift. I look forward (kind of like enjoying Little Bee) to reading your other books. But if they are like this one you cannot read them and remain unchanged.

    Take care of yourself,

    Victoria

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