“The Thing Around you Neck” is not just the title of the volume, or even the title of a short story, but some feeling that Adichie seems to be claiming is universal. This “thing” is mentioned twice in the story.
Adichie herself came to the US from Nigeria and spent some time in Connecticut, going to a University outside of Hartford. It would appear that Adichie might have projected her experience upon her character and is further extending the “you” by placing it in the title of the book, read by all who even walk by a book shelf. The use of “you” in the story projects Akunna’s experience upon the reader. Therefore lines like “At night, something would wrap itself around your neck , something that very nearly choked you” and “The thing that wrapped itself around your neck , that nearly choked you before you fell asleep, started to loosen” seem to assume that the reader has had a similar feeling. This universal “you” suggests that what Akunna is going through can be felt by and has been felt by a large demographic of people. Whether Adichie’s “you” is speaking to the large population of Africans, or all immigrants, who have come to America with expectations or to an even wider demographic that includes anyone who has felt “the thing around your neck” it is not clear. Just before Adichie first mentions the tightening of the “thing,” she mentions how Akunna does not write to her family, and is therefore isolated from them and her country.
Just before Adichie mentions the loosening of the “thing,” she describes Akunna and the nameless boy as being happy and being close. For these reasons, it would seem that the thing that kept Akunna up at night, was a sense of loneliness or a disconnection from her people. I would argue that the tightening feeling is more of a sense of disconnection and not loneliness. The constricting nature of this feeling, something “that almost chokes you” seems to have more to do with unresolved feelings from home. Feeling alone, or invisible, she associates more with an empty, airlessness, describing how she feels she could walk through a wall.I would associate choking more with a sinking feeling as opposed to the empty invisibility that goes with being totally alone. The thing around your neck tightens, she does not say that it was originally tight. Therefore, it is something that could be dangerous but is not necessarily so. Also, the thing wraps “itself” around your neck, showing that is is something you may have no control over, and did not wish for. Because of these two characteristics I see the “thing” as definitely being related to a sense of origin/family/past. Making this phrase the title of her book suggests that Adichie sees this sensation that can be found in each of the stories and I would agree.