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Contemporary Fiction

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I'm looking again at the March issue of Harper's. It includes a story by Lesley Nneka Arimah, about a Nigerian immigrant to the United States named Glory and her relationship with a man, Thomas. The Nigerian-immigrant community in the US is, I gather, fairly traditional in its views on marriage, sex roles, etc., and Arimah's story plays on that.

I wouldn't call Glory an anti-hero exactly, but the narrative voice's view of the protagonist is, at best, ambivalent. We're told, "It was also true that her parents put pressure on her. Yet theirs was the sort of hopeful pressure that would have encouraged a better person."

In time, the parental pressure comes to a point on this: Glory should find a nice Nigerian man and settle down.

That leads to the following neat passage:

"But the more he said 'us' and 'we,' the less quickly she deleted that 'Mom, I'm seeing someone' text. One day, instead of sending it, she posted a picture of her and Thomas on her Facebook wall, setting off a sequence that involved her Port Harcourt cousin calling another cousin who called another and so on and so forth, until the news got to her mother, who called her right away. It took thirty-seven minutes.

"Glory waited till just before the call went to voicemail to pick up."

I love the precision of the 37 minutes there.


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