Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian born and raised novelist. Her 2003 debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, was initially rejected by publishers as Chimamanda was then an unknown writer whose writing style was considered incomparable and therefore, unmarketable. Purple Hibiscus eventually found a publisher and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and went on to win the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in 2005.
Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, set during the Biafran War in Nigeria in the late 1960’s, won the coveted Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and was made into a film starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Last year, at New York’s Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture, Chimamanda sat down with award-winning British writer Zadie Smith who commented that Chimamanda’s female characters “move with freedom, particularly in romantic and sexual relationships; women who do not have a moment’s doubt about speaking their mind. The women are always themselves…always confident.” Chimamanda, a 2008 MacArthur Genius Grant fellow, replied:
“I’m writing about women who are familiar. Not to say that all women I know are strong and have their shit together. They’re not. But to say that the idea of a woman being strong, and simply being strong, not to prove anything or not to be unusual, is normal to me.”
Earlier this year, Chimamanda was nominated for a Grammy for her contribution to Beyoncé’s track “Flawless” in which the singer sampled the writer’s 2012 TEDxEuston Talk, We Should All Be Feminists. The popular lecture, which was published as a book by the same name in 2014, draws from Chimamanda’s experiences and observations on sexual politics, gender inequality and roles.
Her latest novel, Americanah, won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. Listed as Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2015,” Chimamanda helped to establish the Farafina Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes reading, writing, and cultural social introspection and engagement through the literary arts such as story-telling and short-stories. At her 2009 TED Talk, Chimamanda spoke of the transformative role of stories.
“Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her Southern relatives who had moved to the North. She introduced them to a book about the Southern life that they had left behind. ‘They sat around, reading the book themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.’
I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on September 15, and she is this week’s Woman Hurrying History.
Narrated by Elysse Cloma
Music by Ben Sound www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music/