28 Days of Literary Blackness With VSB | Day 13: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Illustration for article titled 28 Days of Literary Blackness With VSB | Day 13: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Image: Things Fall Apart (Penguin Random House

Publisher Synopsis: Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first story traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives. It provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries.


These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing the life of nature, history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. Things Fall Apart is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.

It’s been a good and long while since I’ve read Things Fall Apart. I remember reading this in college, not for any particular class, but because it was suggested by one of my professors who was really big on writers of the African diaspora as he felt that in order to fully embrace our blackness, we needed to understand what the rest of the black world looked like.

The book is about a lot of things: Nigeria (first and foremost), family, tradition, masculinity, violence, white colonialism, religion and the introduction of Christianity, resistance versus acceptance, death, etc. It’s one of those books, for me, where the title of it couldn’t be more apropos. My favorite scene in Disney’s Pocahontas is when Pocahontas’ father tells his tribe to stay away from the white man, saying, “These white men are dangerous.” This novel is what happens when they show up in Nigeria instead of Virginia.

Because of its resonance in the canon of world literature, there’s not a lot of convincing needed on whether the book is worthy of a read. Chances are that you already know this. I will say that I’m a lover of quotes, and simple but super effective ways to form phrases, and I have always remembered one particular line about a character in the novel who was described as “a man who thought about things.” That stuck with me for years because it sounds so profound yet so simple. And mostly, this is how I think of myself after I drink Hennessy. The book also is the title of The Roots’ best album, which includes my favorite of their songs, “Act Too (The Love of My Life).” Things fall apart, indeed.

Things Fall Apart (1959) by Chinua Achebe

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



I’m making up for the time I lost resisting a lot of Black works for strange reasons. This was one of the only books I’ve ever read in fits and starts. The fablism (is that a word?) was a little off-putting until I leave need to just go with the flow. Halfway through, I fell in LOVE! The universality of how people view themselves and their own behaviors, as opposed to how the world perceives those things is extraordinary. But more than anything, this writer evoked the exact same sentiments about white people so long ago and in another world that my elders did and do. It is truly a master work and I understood why it's revered!