Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer whose works range from novels to short stories to nonfiction. She was described 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.
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.
Read Also: KOKOnista Of The Day: Nse Ikpe-Etim Is Arguably The Best African Actress Of Her GenerationHer 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.
In 2003, she completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. In 2008, she received a Master of Arts degree in African studies from Yale University.
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.”
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.
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