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Chinua Achebe's new collection of essays is The Education of a British Protected Child.

'British Protected Person’ was the official status stamped in Achebe’s first passport, which he obtained in 1957 when he had the opportunity to go to England for a course at the BBC Staff School. Its inclusion in the title of this slim volume beside the words 'education’ and 'child’ raises the expectation of an evocative memoir about growing up in colonial Nigeria. But the blurb on the dust jacket reveals that it is really a 'volume of autobiographical essays, many of which have never been published before’. These are weasel words on the part of the publisher. Most of the pieces are not essays. They are lectures and addresses, often rambling, unstructured, tailored to particular occasions. Though a few of the pieces have not been published, they were delivered 15 or even 20 years ago. Achebe has form in this regard. Home and Exile (2000) sounded like an autobiography, but was actually three lectures, one of which was a brief account of his childhood similar to that offered in the first lecture here.

Achebe also published several collections of short stories and children’s books, including How the Leopard Got His Claws (1973; with John Iroaganachi). Beware, Soul-Brother (1971) and Christmas in Biafra (1973) are collections of . Another Africa (1998) combines an and poems by Achebe with photographs by Robert Lyons. Achebe’s books of essays include Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975), Hopes and Impediments (1988), Home and Exile (2000), The Education of a British-Protected Child (2009), and the autobiographical There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra (2012). In 2007 he won the Man Booker International Prize.

Then came the catastrophe of Biafra. In the collective Western memory, this was a humanitarian crisis, but in reality it was a vicious war between the Igbo east, which announced its secession from Nigeria, and the Yoruba and Hausa of the west and north. Together with his young friend Christopher Okigbo, who had already proved himself Africa’s greatest English language poet, Achebe was establishing a new publishing house in Enugu, capital of the new republic of Biafra. Okigbo joined up and was killed in action, defending the university town where he had found his voice. He was an extraordinary man and the fact that so little is said about him is one of the many disappointments of The Education of a British-Protected Child.

Chinua Achebe's new collection of essays is The Education of a British Protected Child.   AFP  hide caption

Chinua Achebe's characteristically measured and nuanced voice is everywhere present in the seventeen beautifully written pieces contained in this collection. In "The Education of a British-Protected Child," Achebe gives us a vivid portrait of growing up in colonial Nigeria and inhabiting its "middle ground," recalling both his happy memories of reading novels in secondary school and the harsher truths of colonial rule. In "African-American Visitations," we witness the terrifying nature of the African diaspora and what it means not to know "from whence he came." Politics and history figure in "What Is Nigeria to Me?" "Africa's Tarnished Name," and "Politics of the Politicians of Language." And Achebe's extraordinary family comes into view in "My Dad and Me" and "My Daughters."Charmingly personal, intellectually disciplined, and steadfastly wise, The Education of a British-Protected Child is an indispensable addition to the remarkable Achebe oeuvre.

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Chinua Achebe's characteristically measured and nuanced voice is everywhere present in these seventeen beautifully written pieces. In a preface, he discusses his historic visit to his Nigerian homeland on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of , the story of his tragic car accident nearly twenty years ago, and the potent symbolism of President Obama's election. In 'The Education of a British-Protected Child,' Achebe gives us a vivid portrait of growing up in colonial Nigeria and inhabiting its 'middle ground,' recalling both his happy memories of reading novels in secondary school and the harsher truths of colonial rule. In 'Spelling Our Proper Name,' Achebe considers the African-American diaspora, meeting and reading Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, and learning what it means not to know 'from whence he came.' The complex politics and history of Africa figure in 'What Is Nigeria to Me?,' 'Africa's Tarnished Name,' and 'Politics and Politicians of Language in African Literature.' And Achebe's extraordinary family life comes into view in 'My Dad and Me' and 'My Daughters,' where we observe the effect of Christian missionaries on his father and witness the culture shock of raising 'brown' children in America.

The Education of a British Protected Child, By Chinua Achebe

The Education of a British-Protected Child is neither a memoir nor exactly what it is advertised to be: a collection of autobiographical essays. Of the 16 essays and speeches included here, the most directly autobiographical – “My Dad and Me” and “My Daughters” – are among the briefest. The memories in the title essay are separated by ruminations on British colonialism and the character of the Igbo people. As for the 1990 car accident that cost him the use of his legs, Achebe disposes of it with a couple of sentences in his preface.

Chinua Achebe's characteristically measured and nuanced voice is everywhere present in the seventeen beautifully written pieces contained in this collection. In "The Education of a British-Protected Child," Achebe gives us a vivid portrait of growing up in colonial Nigeria and inhabiting its "middle ground," recalling both his happy memories of reading novels in secondary school and the harsher truths of colonial rule. In "African-American Visitations," we witness the terrifying nature of the African diaspora and what it means not to know "from whence he came." Politics and history figure in "What Is Nigeria to Me?" "Africa's Tarnished Name," and "Politics of the Politicians of Language." And Achebe's extraordinary family comes into view in "My Dad and Me" and "My Daughters."Charmingly personal, intellectually disciplined, and steadfastly wise, The Education of a British-Protected Child is an indispensable addition to the remarkable Achebe oeuvre.

Read The Education of a British-Protected Child Essays by Chinua Achebe with Rakuten Kobo

The Education of a British Protected Child (by Chinua Achebe)

The first essay is the Education of a British Protected Child. This essay tells us a little bit about Achebe's birth at Ogidi in 1930. He mentioned his education at Ogidi's St Philip's Church Missionary School, CMS, without elaborating on it. We learn that after elementary school he had a choice to make between attending Dennis Memorial Grammar School at Onitsha, an Anglican secondary school or Government secondary school at Umuahia (built in 1929). Apparently, his senior brother prevailed on him to go to Umuahia. Thus, in 1944 he started his secondary education at Umuahia. While in secondary school the British decided to build a university college in Nigeria at Ibadan. Upon graduating from secondary school he went off to Ibadan for his undergraduate education. He graduated in 1953 and obtained a job with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. Three years later he wrote his first novel, Things fall Apart. The essay is essentially a look at some of the high-water marks in Achebe's period of undertaking formal education. He did not present events in any kind of systematic order but rather injected whatever he felt was a significant event during his school days. For example, we learn about Achebe's first trek to Onitsha (seven miles from his town) in 1940 to celebrate British Empire Day (in honor of Queen Victoria).