The month of March is Women’s Month. A celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. In light of this, we are celebrating a few women from the African diaspora whose immense contributions although, often overlooked should live on in perpetuity. And so we continue with a woman who is fearless, a fierce warrior of Africanism, and an advocate of African history, Africa’s story, a writer and storyteller, best known for her themes of politics, culture, race, and gender. She’s also a wordsmith a gift that she has honored to the fullest and precisely the kind of woman we need today in our modern era — who is not afraid to tell it like it is. She’s truly a remarkably inspirational woman and if you are among the lucky few lucky enough to read her work then you know she’s really the voice we need especially in a society that is determined to obscure African history and any contributions Africans have made to our world. Although, more than any accomplishments and accolades is that she is African. But to my Nigerian friends, they will correct me and say she’s Nigerian — proudly and yes she is indeed Nigerian.
Born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1977, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the child of two passionate educators who grew up on the campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where her father was a professor and her mother was the first female Registrar. She studied medicine for a year at Nsukka and then left for the U.S at the age of 19 to continue her education on a different path. She graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in Communication and Political Science. She has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Arts degree in African History from Yale University. She was awarded a Hodder fellowship at Princeton University for the 2005-2006 academic year, and a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University for the 2011-2012 academic year. In 2008, she received a MacArthur Fellowship. She has received honorary doctorate degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University, Johns Hopkins University, Haverford College, Williams College, the University of Edinburgh, Duke University, Amherst College, Bowdoin College, SOAS University of London, American University, Georgetown University, Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Northwestern University.
Her novels, short stories, and plays have all received both public and critical acclaim. Adichie’s work has been translated into over thirty languages and her current catalog includes three novels, a collection of short stories, a collection of poems, and publications in numerous journals. Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, is about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom and earned the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Published in 2006, Half of a Yellow Sun, set during the Nigerian Biafra war won the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her third novel, Americanah, a tender story of race and identity, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the Heartland Prize for Fiction, among many other literary prizes, and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. Americanah is being adapted as a film featuring Lupita Nyong’o. In 2009, Adichie published her first collection of short stories, The Thing around Your Neck. Her most recent work, Notes On Grief, an essay about losing her father, has just been published.
As prolific of a writer, she is also a great speaker and lecturer. She has delivered two landmark TED talks: her 2009 TED Talk, “The Danger of A Single Story” explores the negative influences that a “single story” can have and identifies the root of these stories. Adichie argues that single stories often originate from simple misunderstandings or one’s lack of knowledge of others, but that these stories can also have a malicious intent to suppress other groups of people due to prejudice. She professes that the rejection of the single-story phenomenon allows one to “regain a kind of paradise” and see people as more than just one incomplete idea. And in her 2012 TEDx Euston talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017.
Although we will be remiss if we did not mention Beyoncé/Adichie collaboration. “We Should All Be Feminists,” skyrocketed into popular consciousness when Beyoncé famously sampled part of the speech for her song, “Flawless.” The song was performed by Beyoncé at the 2014 MTV VMAs, in front of a screen that blared the word “FEMINIST” in all caps—a move that was largely without precedent on the pop-cultural stage. What Adichie is trying to help us understand about feminism is that there is more to learn, more boundaries to push, further to explore. Keeping us from being complacent, feminism is integral to effective and thoughtful change and it is also democratic. And there is value in that democratization, because what is feminism if not a fight for equality? We have evolved as species but it seems that our ideas about women have not, argued Adichie.
She was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015. In 2017, Fortune Magazine named her one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. She is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2016, Johns Hopkins University awarded her a Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa “for always striving to put a human face on life-changing events and class struggles, to force a greater understanding.” Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria, where she leads an annual creative writing workshop. She is also a beloved mother and her recent Instagram post about her daughter was simply witty and one of the most humorous and sweetest things.
Have you read any of Adichie’s work?