Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (/ / (listen); born 15 September 1977) is a Nigerian writer whose works range from novels to short stories to nonfiction. She was described in The Times Literary Supplement as "the most prominent" of a "procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors [which] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature", particularly in her second home, the United States.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
|Born||15 September 1977|
Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, non-fiction writer|
|Alma mater||Eastern Connecticut State University (BA)|
Johns Hopkins University (MA)
Yale University (MA)
|Notable works||Purple Hibiscus (2003)|
Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
We Should All Be Feminists (2014)
Adichie, a feminist, has written the novels Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013), the short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), and the book-length essay We Should All Be Feminists (2014). Her most recent books are Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017) and Notes on Grief (2021). In 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant.
Personal life and education
Adichie was born in the city of Enugu in Nigeria, and grew up as the fifth of six children in an Igbo family in the university town of Nsukka in Enugu State. While she was growing up, her father, James Nwoye Adichie (1932-2020), worked as a professor of statistics at the University of Nigeria. Her mother, Grace Ifeoma (1942-2021), was the university's first female registrar. The family lost almost everything during the Nigerian Civil War, including both maternal and paternal grandfathers. Her family's ancestral village is in Abba in Anambra State.
Adichie completed her secondary education at the University of Nigeria Secondary School, Nsukka, where she received several academic prizes. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the university's Catholic medical students. At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria for the United States to study communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She soon transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University to be near her sister Uche, who had a medical practice in Coventry, Connecticut. While the novelist was growing up in Nigeria, she was not used to being identified by the colour of her skin, which only began to happen as soon as she arrived in the United States for college. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of colour in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn. She writes about this in her novel Americanah. She received a bachelor's degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, with the distinction of summa cum laude in 2001.
Adichie was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005–2006 academic year. In 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She was also awarded a 2011–2012 fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.
Adichie divides her time between the United States, and Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops. In 2016, she was conferred an honorary degree – Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, by Johns Hopkins University. In 2017, she was conferred honorary degrees – Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, by Haverford College and The University of Edinburgh. In 2018, she received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Amherst College. She received an honorary degree, doctor honoris causa, from the Université de Fribourg, Switzerland, in 2019.
In an interview published in the Financial Times in July 2016, Adichie revealed that she had a baby daughter. In a profile of Adichie, published in The New Yorker in June 2018, Larissa MacFarquhar wrote, "the man she ended up marrying in 2009 was almost comically suitable: a Nigerian doctor who practiced in America, whose father was a doctor and a friend of her parents." Adichie is a Catholic and was raised Catholic as a child, though she considers her views, especially those on feminism, to sometimes conflict with her religion. At a 2017 event at Georgetown University, she stated that religion "is not a women-friendly institution" and "has been used to justify oppressions that are based on the idea that women are not equal human beings." She has called for Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria to preach messages of peace and togetherness.
Adichie supports LGBT rights in Nigeria and all of Africa as a whole; in 2014 when Nigeria passed the anti-homosexuality bill she was among Nigerian writers who objected to the law, calling it unconstitutional and "a strange priority to a country with so many real problems", stating that a crime is a crime for a reason because a crime has victims, and that consensual homosexual conducts between adults does not constitute a crime hence is unjust. Adichie was also close friends with Kenyan openly gay writer Binyavanga Wainaina, and when he died on 21 May 2019 after suffering a stroke in Nairobi, Adichie said in her tribute that she was struggling to stop crying.
In 2017, Adichie was criticized by some as transphobic, initially for saying that "my feeling is trans women are trans women." Adichie later further clarified her statement, writing "that there is a distinction between women born female and women who transition, without elevating one or the other, which was my point. I have and will continue to stand up for the rights of transgender people." Adichie expressed concern that the trans debate is being used as an excuse to take away freedom of speech by labeling and aggressively trying to silence people who may not agree with trans activism, and that the trans movement wishes an erosion of women as a political and biological class. In 2020, she weighed into "all the noise" sparked by J.K. Rowling's article on sex and gender, and defended Rowling's essay as being "a perfectly reasonable piece". She again faced criticisms, some of which came from Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi, who had graduated from Adichie's writing workshop.
Adichie criticised cancel culture, saying: "There's a sense in which you aren't allowed to learn and grow. Also forgiveness is out of the question. I find it so lacking in compassion."
Ngozi Adichie's original and initial inspiration came from Chinua Achebe, after reading his 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, at the age of 10; Adichie was inspired by seeing her own life represented in the pages. She has also named Buchi Emecheta as a Nigerian literary precursor, on whose death Adichie said: "Buchi Emecheta. We are able to speak because you first spoke. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your art. Nodu na ndokwa."
Adichie published a collection of poems in 1997 (Decisions) and a play (For Love of Biafra) in 1998. Her short story "My Mother, the Crazy African", dating from when Adichie was a college senior living in Connecticut, discusses the problems that arise when a person is facing two cultures that are complete opposites from each other. On one hand, there is a traditional Nigerian culture with clear gender roles, while in America there is more freedom in how genders act, and less restrictions on younger people. Ralindu, the protagonist, faces this challenge with her parents as she grew up in Philadelphia, while they grew up in Nigeria. Adichie dives deep into gender roles and traditions and what problems can occur because of this.
In 2002, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story "You in America", and her story "That Harmattan Morning" was selected as a joint winner of the 2002 BBC World Service Short Story Awards. In 2003, she won the O. Henry Award for "The American Embassy", and the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002/2003 (PEN Center Award). Her stories were also published in Zoetrope: All-Story, and Topic Magazine.
Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), received wide critical acclaim; it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (2005). Purple Hibiscus starts with an extended quote from Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.
Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, is set before and during the Nigerian Civil War. Adichie has said of Buchi Emecheta's Destination Biafra (1982): " [It] was very important for my research when I was writing Half of a Yellow Sun." Half of a Yellow Sun received the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Half of a Yellow Sun was adapted into a film of the same title directed by Biyi Bandele, starring BAFTA award-winner and Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and BAFTA winner Thandiwe Newton, and was released in 2014.
Adichie's third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of 12 stories that explore the relationships between men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.
In 2010 she was listed among the authors of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" Fiction Issue. Adichie's story "Ceiling" was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.
Her third novel Americanah (2013), an exploration of a young Nigerian encountering race in America was selected by The New York Times as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2013".
In April 2014, she was named as one of 39 writers aged under 40 in the Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club project Africa39, celebrating Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital 2014.
In a 2014 interview, Adichie said on feminism and writing: "I think of myself as a storyteller but I would not mind at all if someone were to think of me as a feminist writer... I'm very feminist in the way I look at the world, and that world view must somehow be part of my work."
In 2015, she was co-curator of the PEN World Voices Festival.
Her next book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, published in March 2017, had its origins in a letter Adichie wrote to a friend who had asked for advice about how to raise her daughter as a feminist.
In April 2017, it was announced that Adichie had been elected into the 237th class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the highest honours for intellectuals in the United States, as one of 228 new members to be inducted on 7 October 2017.
Adichie spoke on "The Danger of a Single Story" for TED in 2009. It has become one of the top ten most-viewed TED Talks of all time with more than fifteen million views. On 15 March 2012, she delivered the "Connecting Cultures" Commonwealth Lecture 2012 at the Guildhall, London. Adichie also spoke on being a feminist for TEDxEuston in December 2012, with her speech entitled, "We should all be feminists". It initiated a worldwide conversation on feminism and was published as a book in 2014. It was sampled for the 2013 song "***Flawless" by American performer Beyoncé, where it attracted further attention.
"The Danger of a Single Story"
Adichie spoke in a TED talk entitled "The Danger of a Single Story", posted in July 2009. In it, she expressed her concern for under-representation of various cultures. She explained that as a young child, she had often read American and British stories where the characters were primarily of Caucasian origin. At the lecture, she said that the under-representation of cultural differences could be dangerous: "Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination and opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature."
Throughout the lecture, she used personal anecdotes to illustrate the importance of sharing different stories. She briefly talked about the houseboy that was working for her family whose name is Fide and said the only thing she knew about him was how poor his family was. However, when Adichie's family visited Fide's village, Fide's mother showed them a basket that Fide's brother had made, making her realize that she created her opinion about Fide based on only one story of him. Adichie said, "It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them." She also said that on leaving Nigeria to go to Drexel University, she encountered the effects of the under-representation of her own culture. Her American roommate was surprised that Adichie was fluent in English and that she did not listen to tribal music. She said of this: "My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals."
Adichie concluded the lecture by noting the significance of different stories in various cultures and the representation that they deserve. She advocated for a greater understanding of stories because people are complex, saying that by understanding only a single story, one misinterprets people, their backgrounds and their histories.
"We should all be feminists"
In 2012, Adichie gave a TEDx talk entitled: "We should all be feminists", delivered at TedXEuston in London, which has been viewed more than five million times. She shared her experiences of being an African feminist, and her views on gender construction and sexuality. Adichie said that the problem with gender is that it shapes who we are. She also said: "I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I'm also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better."
Parts of Adichie's TEDx talk were sampled in Beyoncé's song "Flawless" in December 2013. Fourth Estate published an essay based on the speech as a standalone volume, We Should All Be Feminists, in 2014. Adichie later said in an NPR interview that "anything that gets young people talking about feminism is a very good thing." She later qualified the statement in an interview with the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant: "Another thing I hated was that I read everywhere: now people finally know her, thanks to Beyoncé, or: she must be very grateful. I found that disappointing. I thought: I am a writer and I have been for some time and I refuse to perform in this charade that is now apparently expected of me: 'Thanks to Beyoncé, my life will never be the same again.' That's why I didn't speak about it much."
Adichie has clarified that her particular feminism differs from Beyoncé's, particularly in their disagreements about the role occupied by men in women's lives, saying: "Her style is not my style but I do find it interesting that she takes a stand in political and social issues since a few years. She portrays a woman who is in charge of her own destiny, who does her own thing, and she has girl power. I am very taken with that." Nevertheless, she has been outspoken against critics who question the singer's credentials as a feminist and said that "Whoever says they're feminist is bloody feminist."
Awards and nominations
On 20 May 2019, Ngozi Adichie received an honorary degree from Yale University.
|2002||Caine Prize for African Writing||"You in America"||Nominated[A]|
|Commonwealth Short Story Competition||"The Tree in Grandma's Garden"||Nominated[B]|
|BBCmeasuring Competition||"That Harmattan Morning"||Won[C]|
|2002/2003||David T. Wong International Short Story Prize (PEN American Center Award)||"Half of a Yellow Sun"||Won|
|2003||O. Henry Prize||"The American Embassy"||Won|
|2004||Hurston-Wright Legacy Award: Best Debut Fiction Category||Purple Hibiscus||Won|
|Young Adult Library Services Association Best Books for Young Adults Award||Nominated|
|2004/2005||John Llewellyn Rhys Prize||Nominated[A]|
|2005||Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best First Book (Africa)||Won|
|Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best First Book (overall)||Won|
|2006||National Book Critics Circle Award||Half of a Yellow Sun||Nominated|
|2007||British Book Awards: "Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year" category||Nominated|
|James Tait Black Memorial Prize||Nominated|
|Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best Book (Africa)||Nominated[A]|
|Anisfield-Wolf Book Award: Fiction category||Won[C]|
|PEN Beyond Margins Award||Won[C]|
|Orange Broadband Prize: Fiction category||Won|
|2008||International Dublin Literary Award||Nominated|
|Reader's Digest Author of the Year Award||Won|
|Future Award, Nigeria: Young Person of the Year category||Won|
|MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant||Won|
|2009||International Nonino Prize||Won|
|Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award||The Thing Around Your Neck||Nominated[D]|
|John Llewellyn Rhys Prize||Nominated[A]|
|2010||Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best Book (Africa)||Nominated[A]|
|Dayton Literary Peace Prize||Nominated[B]|
|2011||This Day Awards: "New Champions for an Enduring Culture" category||Nominated|
|2013||Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize: Fiction category||Americanah||Won|
|National Book Critics Circle Award: Fiction category||Won|
|2014||Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction||Nominated[A]|
|Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction||Nominated[A]|
|MTV Africa Music Awards 2014: Personality of the Year||Nominated|
|2015||International Dublin Literary Award||Americanah||Nominated[A]|
|Grammy Awards: Album of the Year||Beyoncé (as featured artist)||Nominated|
|2018||PEN Pinter Prize||Won|
- 2010 Listed among The New Yorker's "20 Under 40"
- 2013 Listed among The New York Times' "Ten Best Books of 2013", for Americanah
- 2013 Listed among the BBC's "Top Ten Books of 2013", for Americanah
- 2013 Foreign Policy magazine "Top Global Thinkers of 2013"
- 2013 Listed among the New African's "100 Most Influential Africans 2013"
- 2014 Listed among Africa39 project of 39 writers aged under 40
- 2015 Listed among Time Magazine's "The 100 Most Influential People"
- 2015 Commencement Speaker at Wellesley College
- 2017 Commencement Speaker at Williams College
- 2018 Class Day Speaker for Harvard University.
- 2019 Class Day Speaker for Yale University.
- Adichie was one of 15 women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, guest-edited by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
- Adichie was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2019.
- Chimamanda was also elected in March 2017 into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This made her the second Nigerian to be given such an honour, after Prof. Wole Soyinka. She was listed among the 40 Honorary members from 19 different countries.
|2013||"Checking Out"||"Checking out". The New Yorker. 89 (5): 66–73. 18 March 2013.|
|2015||"Apollo"||"Apollo". The New Yorker. 91 (8): 64–69. 13 April 2015.|
|2016||"The Arrangements: A Work of Fiction"||"'The Arrangements': A Work of Short Fiction". The New York Times Book Review. 3 July 2016.|
|2020||"Notes on Grief"||"Notes on Grief". The New Yorker. 10 September 2020.|
|2020||"Zikora"||Amazon Original Stories|
- "Flawless" (Beyoncé featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
- List of Nigerian women writers
- Postcolonial feminist literature
- Although Adichie's name has been pronounced a variety of ways in English, this transcription, CHIM-ah-MAHN-də əng-GOH-zee ə-DEE-chay, attempts to best approximate the Igbo pronunciation of it for English speakers.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.|
- Official website
- Adichie on Twitter
- Adichie on Facebook
- Britannica about Adichie
- Unofficial website via Daria Tunca, English Department, University of Liège.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TED
- Messud, Claire, ed. (1 February 2010). "Quality Street". Guernica Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 March 2010.
- Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (15 January 2012). "Why Are You Here?". Guernica Magazine.
- Anya, Ikechuku (15 October 2005). "In the Footsteps of Achebe: Enter Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie". African Writer.
- Murray, Senan (8 June 2007). "The new face of Nigerian literature?". BBC News.
- "Michio Kaku, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Angela Hobbs" (Audio). The Forum. BBC World Service. 13 April 2008.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Commonwealth Lecture 2012 on YouTube. 16 March 2012.
- "Why Chimamanda Adichie Will Not 'Shut Up'". Frankfurt Book Fair 2018. 19 October 2018.
- "'I am a pessimistic optimist': Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie answers authors' questions". The Guardian. 4 December 2020.