What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky Summary & Study Guide

Lesley Nneka Arimah
This Study Guide consists of approximately 46 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky.
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What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky Summary & Study Guide Description

What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah.

The following edition of this book was made to create this study guide: Arimah, Lesley Nneka. What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky: Stories. Riverhead Books, 2017.

Arimah's short story collection focuses on the internal and emotional lives of young Nigerian women as they encounter an unforgiving world that is not looking out for their well-being or success. Several of the short stories are written in a more traditional literary style, while others suddenly introduce more imaginative genres such as magic realism, science fiction, and mythology. Some of the stories are set in Nigeria, while others are set in America, but there is not a dramatic difference between the effects that the two settings have on the stories. There are similar themes across many of the stories, but each story is a separate entity, consisting of entirely different characters and, in some cases, existing in entirely different universes.

The collection opens with "The Future Looks Good," a brief, experimental story that plays with chronology as a vengeful boyfriend shoots his girlfriend's younger sister in the back. "War Stories" is narrated by a young girl as she describes getting in trouble at school and being unable to explain the logic behind her actions. "Wild" introduces the first American-Nigerian: Ada, a high school senior who is sent by her mother to live with her aunt and cousin in Nigeria for the summer as punishment for poor behavior. Even though Ada's own mother ruthlessly compares Ada to Chinyere, Ada discovers on her first day there that her cousin Chinyere is much more toxic than Ada herself. Chinyere's relationship with her own mother is fraught with problems. Chinyere abandons Ada in the city with no transportation or cell phone. "Light" continues to explore the gap between Nigeria and America, as a Nigeria-based father sees the joy within his adolescent daughter extinguish when she moves to live with her business-focused mother (and the father's wife) in America.

"Second Chances" is both the first story to introduce magical realism and to take place in America. A twenty-something narrator is astonished to see her deceased mother literally step out of an old photograph, spending a quiet day with the family before returning back into the photograph with little explanation. "Windfalls" remains in America and relates how a Nigerian mother effectively abuses her child by staging violent accidents within grocery stores. Afterward, she collects the titular "windfalls" of legal payouts.

"Who Will Greet You At Home" continues the theme of magical realism, as it takes place within a world where mothers physically construct their babies out of available materials, a system that emphasizes the gap between rich and poor. While "Buchi's Girls" takes place in a Nigerian setting and is told with traditional literary rules, it continues the previous story's themes of a gap between the rich and poor. The story follows Buchi in the aftermath of her husband's passing in a car accident, as she struggles to raise her 6-year-old and 12-year-old daughters under the practically authoritarian house rules of Buchi's wealthy sister and Buchi's brother-in-law.

"What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky" is the lone science fiction story of the collection. Set in the late 20th century, the story hypothesizes that radical discoveries in mathematics have allowed mathematicians to perform apparently superhuman skills like flying, or healing others of their negative emotions. However, unforeseen errors in the mathematical process quickly start to throw mathematicians' lives into chaos. The titular main character of "Glory" is a Nigerian woman who has been raised in America (Minneapolis). Armed with a negative personality, she contemplates suicide. Then, she suddenly begins to date an almost mechanically happy co-worker, a native Nigerian.

"What Is A Volcano?" is the only story in the collection that can be classified as mythology. It does not feature any traditionally human characters. The parable, consisting of a feud between the god of ants and the goddess of rivers, does have similar themes to a parable that Glory's grandfather tells her in the previous story, "Glory." The concluding story, "Redemption," chronicles a wealthy 13-year-old Nigerian daughter as she becomes infatuated with a brazen 13-year-old girl who is hired as a servant at her neighbor's house. Both girls struggle to navigate the devout religious practices of, respectively, their mother and boss, while the local children's pastor sexually assaults them both -- a truth that is ignored by the church community.

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