Names Identity of Convenience

The Arrangers of Marriage, a short story written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a reminder that sometimes survival is more important than your name.

It’s about a young man going through the process of being a medical doctor in the United States.  His name is Ofodile Emeka Udenwa, but he calls himself Dave in New York.  He fetches from the airport his wife he got in Nigeria through an arranged marriage.
Her name is Chinaza Agatha Okafor.  Dave changes her name to Agatha Bell.  She is so mad she calls him ‘my new husband’ throughout the story.  Chinaza meets one of their neighbours Nia, an African American.  She tells Chinaza that she changed her name to Nia, which is Swahili when she turned 18. 

Chinaza finds it ironic that her husband changed his identity and hers to melt in the American melting pot.  Dave’s dilemma is the history of many immigrants. 

They change their names because they are ridiculed, because they irritate people or because they are hacked to a medical coma e.g. Nonqaba ends up being Nonuba.   

Nigerians in the U.S. are just one example of immigrants changing their names to suit their new countries in North America, Australia or Europe.  American Jews, Poles, Russians and many more, changed their names to minimize the stress of being an immigrant. 

This ended up with the surname Mlynarz becoming Miller or Protopowicz turning into Prescott.  The Chinese and Japanese have their own stories to tell.
Arrangers of Marriage is published in The Granta Book of the African Short Story.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness the novel.


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