Who is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?


Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian writer whose works range from novels, short stories to non-fiction. Chimamanda Adichie, a feminist, has written several books, including ‘Purple Hibiscus,’ 2003, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ 2006, and ‘Americanah’ (2013). She also has a short story collection known as ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ (2009) and the book-length essay called ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ (2014). Publishers published Adichie’s recent book, ‘Dear Ijeawele’ or ‘A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,’ in March 2017. In 2008 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie got a MacArthur Genius Grant.

The Personal Life and Education of Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie was born in Enugu city, Nigeria, and grew up as the 5th of six children in an Igbo family in Nsukka town, Enugu State. While Adichie was growing up, James Nwoye Adichie, her father, worked as a professor of stats at the University of Nigeria. Grace Ifeoma, her mother, was the University’s 1st female Registrar. The family lost everything during the Nigerian Civil War. Adichie’s family’s ancestral village is in Abba, Anambra State.

Chimamanda Adichie finished her secondary education at the University of Nigeria Secondary School, where she got various academic awards or prizes. She studied pharmacy and medicine at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this time, she edited ‘The Compass,’ a magazine which the University’s Catholic medical students run. At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria for the US to study communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She later moved to Eastern Connecticut State University to be close to Uche, her sister, who had a medical practice in Coventry (Connecticut).

While the writer was growing up in Nigeria, she wasn’t used to people identifying her by her skin color, which suddenly changed when she arrived in the US for college. As a black African in America, Chimamanda Adichie came face to face with what it meant to be a person of color in the US. Race as an idea became something that Adichie had to learn and navigate. Chimamanda Adichie writes about this in her novel ‘Americanah.’ She got a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, with the distinction of summa cum laude way back in 2001.

In 2003, Chimamanda Adichie completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. 5 years later (2008), she got a Master of Arts degree in African Studies from Yale University. Chimamanda Adichie was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year. In 2008, she received a MacArthur Fellowship. The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, also awarded her a 2011-2012 fellowship.

Ngozi Adichie separates or divides her time between the US and Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops. In 2016, the Johns Hopkins University conferred her an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The following year (2017), the Haverford College and the University of Edinburgh conferred Chimamanda Adichie honorary degrees, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

In 2018 she also got an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Amherst College. Ngozi Adichie received another honorary degree, Doctor honoris causa, from the Universite de Fribourg (Switzerland) in 2019.

In a particular interview published in the Financial Times way back in July 2016, Chimamanda Adichie revealed that she had a baby daughter.

Chimamanda Adichie is a Catholic, and her parents raised her as Catholic when she was a child. However, she regards or considers her views, especially those on feminism, to conflict with her religion. Adichie has called for Muslim and Christian leaders in Nigeria to preach messages of togetherness and peace.


Her Writing Career

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s original and initial inspiration came from Chinua Achebe, after reading his 1958 novel known as ‘Things Fall Apart’ at ten years. Chimamanda Adichie got inspired by seeing her life getting represented in the pages. She has also named Buchi Emecheta as a Nigerian literary pioneer, on whose demise Adichie said:

“Buchi Emecheta. We can speak because you 1st spoke. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your art. Nodu na ndokwa.”

Chimamanda Adichie published a collection of poems in 1997, Decisions, and a play, For Love of Biafra, way back in 1998. She got shortlisted in 2002 for the Caine Prize for her short story known as ‘You in America.’ Her story called ‘That Harmattan Morning’ got selected as a joint winner of the 2002 BBC World Service Short Story Awards. In 2003, she got the O. Henry Award for ‘The American Embassy’ and the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002-2003 (PEN Center Award). Publishers published her stories in Zoetrope: All-Story and Topic Magazine.

Her 1st novel, as mentioned earlier, Purple Hibiscus, got wide critical acclaim. It got shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and received the Commonwealth Writers; Prize for Best First Book. Purple Hibiscus begins or starts with an extended quote from Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart.’ Her 2nd novel, called Half of a Yellow Sun, named after the flag of the short-lived Biafra state or nation, is set before and during the Nigerian Civil War. Chimamanda Adichie talked about Buchi Emecheta’s ‘Destination Biafra,’ stating that it was vital for her research when writing ‘Half of a Yellow Sun.’ Half of a Yellow Sun got the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ got adapted into a film of the same title which Biyi Bandele directed, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, and got out in 2014.

Chimamanda Adichie’s 3rd book, called The Thing Around Your Neck, as mentioned above, is a collection of more than ten stories that explore the relationships between men and women, parents and children, the African region, and the United States. In 2010, she got listed among the authors of The New Yorker’s ’20 Under 40′ Fiction Issue.

In April 2014, she was named one of the 39 writers aged under forty in the Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club project Africa 39, celebrating Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital.

Chimamanda Adichie’s short story ‘My Mother, the Crazy African’ talks about the problems that come up or arise when facing two cultures that are opposites from each other. On the one hand, there’s a traditional Nigerian culture with clear gender roles, while in the US, there is more liberation or freedom in how genders act and fewer restrictions on the youth. Chimamanda Adichie dives deeper into gender roles and traditions and what conflicts or problems can occur due to them.

In 2015, Chimamanda Adichie was co-curator of the PEN World Voices Festival. After two years (in March 2017), Americanah was selected as the One Book, One New York program winner. In April the same year, it got declared that Chimamanda Adichie got elected into the 237th class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as one of the 228 new members to be inducted on 7th October 2017.

Her recent book mentioned earlier, known as ‘A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,’ had its origins in a letter Chimamanda Adichie wrote to a friend who had asked for advice about raising her daughter as a campaigner of women’s rights.

Last year (2020), Chimamanda Adichie published Zikora, a stand-alone short story concerning single motherhood and sexism. In November the same year, the public voted the ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ to be the best book to have received or won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in its 25-year history.

Adichie’s Lectures

Chimamanda Adichie spoke on ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ for TED in 2009. It has become one of the top 10 most-viewed TED Talks of all time with more than 15 million views. On 15th March 2012, Adichie delivered the ‘Connecting Cultures’ Commonwealth Lecture 2012 at the Guildhall (London).

Chimamanda Adichie also spoke on being a feminist for TEDxEuston in December 2012, with her speech entitled ‘We Should All be Feminists.’


Brief Description on ‘The Danger of a Single Story’

Chimamanda spoke in a TED talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story posted in 2009, as stated earlier. In it, she expressed her worry or concern for the under-representation of several cultures. She explained that she read British and American stories as a young child where the characters were mainly of Caucasian origin. At her lecture on this, she said that the under-representation of cultural differences could be harmful.

Throughout the lecture, she used personal stories to explain the significance of sharing different anecdotes. Adichie talked about the houseboy that was working for her family, whose name is Fide, and said that the only thing she knew about him was how broke his family was.

However, when Ngozi’s family visited Fide’s village, Fide’s mum showed them a basket that Fide’s sibling had made, realizing that she established her opinion about Fide based on only a single story of him (poverty story).

Chimamanda Adichie concluded the lecture by noting the importance or significance of different stories in several cultures and the representation that they deserve. Chimamanda Adichie advocated for a better understanding of stories because people are complex, saying that by comprehending only one story, one misinterprets people, their histories, and backgrounds.


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