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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie : Proudly Nigerian

By : John Dakwak

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an award-winning Nigerian Author/novelist as well as a writer of short stories and non¬fiction. So good is her literary skills that she has rapidly positioned herself in the forefront of a crop of new African writers. One has to understand a bit of her past to truly appreciate the values that influenced the passion that has transformed her into a global celebrity within the past decade.

Chimamanda grew up in the very same house where the legendary Chinua Achebe once lived and there are enough  reasons to believe that she drew much inspiration and passion from that singular opportunity of existing in such a hallowed environment. Her subsequent educational accomplishments served as a driver to the quality of literary works she has been able to churn out.

Adichie was born on the 15th of September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria and she is the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma  and James Nwoye Adichie. While the  family’s ancestral hometown is Abba in Anambra State, Chimamanda  grew up in Nsukka, in the house formerly occupied by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. Chimamanda’s father worked at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He was Nigeria’s first professor of statistics, and later became Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University. Her mother was the first female registrar at the same institution.

Chimamanda at the Women in the World Summit, New York

The family lost almost everything during the Nigerian Civil War, including both sets of grandfathers. It was during her senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University that she started working on her first novel, ‘Purple Hibiscus’, which was released in October 2003. The book received a wide acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005).

The opening of Purple Hibiscus is an extended quote from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Her second novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, (named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra), is set on the time before and during the Biafran War. The book which was published in the UK and the USA was subsequently released in Nigeria. Besides winning the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield- Wolf Book Award, Half a Yellow Sun also has a film adaptation released in 2014 and featured the likes of BAFTA Award winner, Chiwetel Ejiofor and another BAFTA winner in the person of  Thandie Newton. Unknown to many, Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year.

Adichie, the erudite Scholar

Her most recent book, “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”, was published in March 2017. The major themes that run through her novels and short stories are racial discrimination, feminist ideals and the promotion of Africanism. She presently shuttles between many countries teaching at various writing workshops. While the novelist was growing up in Nigeria, she was not used to being identified by the colour of her skin. That however changed when she arrived the United States. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of colour in the United States.

In an interview published in the Financial Times in July 2016, Adichie revealed that she had a baby daughter. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s original and initial inspiration came from Chinua Achebe, after reading late Prof. Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, at the age of 10. Adichie was inspired by seeing her own life represented in the writing. Adichie published a collection of poems in 1997 (Decisions) and a play (For Love of Biafra) in 1998. In 2002 she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for her short story “You in America”, while “That Harmattan Morning” became a joint winner of the 2002 BBC World Service Short Story Awards. The following year Chimamanda Adichie won the O. Henry Award for “The American Embassy” as well as the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize.

Chimamanda with her husband, Dr Ivara Esese

Adichie is also known for championing the course of women. She wants women to be treated equally with men and not less. In an interview in 2014, 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. “

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The 0. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is married to Dr. Ivara Esege, a mixed-race medical doctor working in Baltimore, Maryland, in the US. Dr. Ivara obtained his medical degree from university of Nigeria. He has been in the prestigious field for over 20 years and he is one of the over 100 doctors at the university of Maryland medical centre who specializes in family medicine. Chimamanda Adichie and Dr. Ivara are blessed with a lovely daughter.

Adichie is married but prefers to be addressed as “miss”. This may be attributed to the fact that she never dropped her maiden name, neither did she adopt her husband’s name. She insist everyone should be a feminist. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria and the United States. She loves the culture and spirit of Lagos city, the resilience and initiative of it’s people. Whenever she visits Nigeria, she usually organizes writing workshops in order to give back to Nigeria. Her feminist talk and commonwealth lecture on ‘Connecting Culture’ gave rise to American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress, Beyonce’s song titled ‘flawless’ and the publication of a book. A critical analysis of her works shows that the greatest power and skill she utilizes are her ability to create character. She struggles profoundly to understand their place in the world.

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