Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Biography
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer and novelist, whose work has had a significant impact on contemporary African and world literature. Her writing often explores themes of identity, cultural conflict, gender, and race, and has earned her numerous awards and accolades.
Adichie is also a prominent feminist and social justice advocate, using her platform to speak out on issues such as gender inequality and the refugee crisis. Through her novels, essays, and speeches, Adichie has become a leading voice in the cultural and intellectual discourse of our time.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Biography
- Full Name : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Pen Name : Amanda N. Adichie
- State Of Origin : Anambra State, Nigeria.
- Place Of Birth : Enugu State, Nigeria
- Date Of Birth : 15 September 1977
- Occupation : Novelist, Writer, Storytelling
- Spouse : Ivara Esege
Notable Works : Purple Hibiscus (2003)Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)Americanah (2013)We Should All Be Feminists (2014
Early Life And Education
Born into an Igbo household in Enugu, Nigeria on September 15, 1977, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the fifth of six children. Her childhood was spent in Nsukka, a university town in Enugu State, where her father, James Nwoye Adichie, worked as a professor of statistics at the University of Nigeria.
Her mother, Grace Ifeoma, served as the university’s first female registrar for nearly 80 years. Adichie’s grandparents on both sides were affected by the Nigerian Civil War, which resulted in the loss of many family possessions. Her family’s ancestral home is in Abba, located in the state of Anambra.
After completing her secondary education at the University of Nigeria Secondary School in Nsukka, Adichie received numerous academic honours.
She then went on to study pharmacy and medicine at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half, during which time she served as the editor of The Compass, a publication run by the university’s Catholic medical students.
At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria and moved to the United States to study political science and communications at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, she later transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) to be closer to her sister, who was working as a doctor in Coventry, Connecticut.
Adichie received her bachelor’s degree from ECSU in 2001. She then went on to earn her master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2003, and a Master of Arts in African Studies from Yale University in 2008.
Throughout her career, Adichie has been recognized with honorary doctorates from 16 universities, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Edinburgh, Duke University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and most recently, the Catholic University of Louvain, where she was awarded her 16th honorary doctorate on April 28, 2022.
Adichie was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year, and she was also awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008. In addition, she received a fellowship from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study for the 2011-2012 academic year.
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At the age of 10, Ngozi Adichie was deeply influenced by Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel “Things Fall Apart,” which she saw as a reflection of her own life. This book was a significant inspiration for her as a writer.
Adichie also drew inspiration from Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta, and upon learning of Emecheta’s passing, she expressed her admiration for her bravery and artistic work by saying, “Emecheta Buchi. You spoke first, so we can now talk. I appreciate your bravery.
I appreciate your artwork, Nodu na ndokwa.” Additionally, Adichie has mentioned Camara Laye’s “The African Child” and Margaret Busby’s 1992 anthology “Daughters of Africa” as key readings that have influenced her writing.
In 1997, Adichie published a book of poems titled Decisions and a drama titled For Love of Biafra in 1998, under the name Amanda N. Adichie.
During her senior year of high school in Connecticut, she wrote the short story “My Mother, the Crazy African,” which explores the challenges that arise when two cultures with opposing values collide.
The story’s protagonist, Ralindu, and her parents must navigate these differences as she was raised in Philadelphia, where gender roles are more fluid, while her parents maintain traditional Nigerian societal norms. This clash between cultural values serves as a central theme in the story.
In 2002, Adichie’s short story “You in America” was nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing, while her story “That Harmattan Morning” was a joint winner of the 2002 BBC World Service Short Piece Awards.
Her stories also appeared in Topic Magazine and Zoetrope: All-Story, and she won the 2002-2003 David T. Wong International Short Story Prize and the PEN Centre Award in 2003.
Her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003, received critical acclaim and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2005, as well as being shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in the same year.
Adichie’s second book, titled Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), draws its inspiration from the flag of the ill-fated country of Biafra, and is set before and during the Nigerian Civil War. During her research for the book, Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra, published in 1982, was crucial.
Half of a Yellow Sun won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. In 2014, a film adaptation of the book was released, directed by Biyi Bandele and featuring BAFTA and Academy Award contender Chiwetel Ejiofor and BAFTA winner Thandiwe Newton.
Adichie’s third book, The Thing Around Your Neck, is a collection of 12 short stories that explore the dynamics between men and women, parents and children, and America and Africa. Adichie’s work was included in The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” Fiction Issue in 2010, and her piece “Ceiling” was featured in The Best American Short Stories from 2011.
In 2013, Adichie’s third book, Americanah, explored the experiences of a young Nigerian woman with race in America and was recognized by The New York Times as one of “The 10 Best Books of 2013.”
Additionally, Adichie was one of the 39 authors under 40 honored in April 2014 by the Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club project Africa39, which commemorated Port Harcourt as the UNESCO World Book Capital.
During a 2014 interview, Adichie acknowledged her feminist perspective and stated that while she considers herself a storyteller, she would not object to being seen as a feminist author.
She served as a co-curator for the PEN World Voices Festival in 2015. In March 2017, Americanah was chosen as the winner for the “One Book, One New York” program, which aimed to promote community reading by encouraging all city residents to read the same book.
In 2017, Ngozi Adichie was elected as one of 228 new members to be admitted into the 237th class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the highest honours for intellectuals in the United States.
Her standalone short tale, “Zikora,” published in 2020, explores themes of sexism and being a single mother. In November 2020, her book “Half of a Yellow Sun” was chosen by the general audience as the best work of fiction to have won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in its 25-year history.
Adichie’s memoir “Notes on Grief,” based on an essay of the same name published in The New Yorker in September 2020, was released in May 2021.
The book delves into her personal experience with her father’s passing, and her authentic and relatable voice has been commended for shedding light on one of the most universally avoided emotions.
Adichie’s feminist perspective is also evident in her work, and while she considers herself a storyteller first and foremost, she has expressed that she would not object if someone perceives her as a feminist author.
She co-curated the PEN World Voices Festival in 2015 and was a part of the Africa39 project that honoured Port Harcourt as the UNESCO World Book Capital in April 2014.
Adichie married a doctor named Ivara Esege in a private ceremony in 2009, and they have one daughter together. They split their time between Lagos, Nigeria, and the United States. Adichie has stated in interviews that she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, writing, and travelling.
Adichie was raised in a Catholic family and remains a Catholic, although she has occasionally found her views, particularly on feminism, in conflict with her religion. She has criticized religion, saying it “has been used to justify oppressions that are based on the premise that women are not equal human beings.”
Despite this, she has called on leaders of both the Christian and Muslim faiths in Nigeria to promote peace and harmony. Adichie has described herself as culturally Catholic and has also identified as an atheist in the past, but has since converted back to the Catholic faith. Adichie is raising her daughter in the Catholic faith.
Adichie grew up in Nigeria where she did not experience being identified by the colour of her skin. It was only when she moved to the United States for college that she began to encounter the effects of race and had to grapple with what it meant to be a person of colour in America as a black African. Adichie had to navigate and understand the concept of race, which she later explored in her 2013 novel, Americanah.
LGBT Rights Advocacy
Adichie has been vocal about her support for LGBT rights in Africa. When Nigeria passed a law against homosexuality in 2014, she joined other Nigerian writers in criticising the law as unconstitutional and a misplaced priority for a country with more pressing issues.
She also argued that the law was unjust because it criminalised consensual homosexual conduct between adults. Adichie was a close friend of Binyavanga Wainaina, a Kenyan author who was openly gay, and she struggled to control her emotions when he passed away in 2019.
However, Adichie has faced criticism for her comments on trans women since 2017, when she declared that “my feeling is that trans women are trans women.”
She later clarified her statement, saying that all women, including trans women, are women, and that using the terms “trans” and “cis” acknowledges the difference between women who transition and those who do not.
Although Adichie does not naturally use the term “cis,” she acknowledges its importance in discussing gender identity. She has defended the rights of transgender people and will continue to do so in the future.
In 2020, J.K. Rowling’s essay titled “J.K. Rowling Writes on Her Reasons for Speaking up on Sex and Gender Issues” sparked controversy, and Adichie voiced her support, stating that the piece was “perfectly reasonable.”
This led to renewed accusations of transphobia against Adichie, including criticism from her former writing workshop student, the Nigerian novelist Akwaeke Emezi.
Adichie responded to the backlash by condemning cancel culture, arguing that it restricts intellectual and personal growth, and stating that forgiveness should not be off the table as it lacks empathy.
In June 2021, Adichie expressed her criticism of cancel culture in an essay titled “It Is Obscene.” She recounted an incident where two writers who had taken her writing course criticized her on social media for her remarks about transgender people.
Adichie referred to their behavior as an “obscene” display of performative virtue, which is well executed in the public realm of Twitter but lacking in personal relationships.
In 2009, Adichie delivered a TED talk titled “The Danger of a Single Story.” The talk has since become the most-watched TED talk of all time, with over 27 million views. She also delivered the “Connecting Cultures” Commonwealth Lecture on March 15, 2012, at London’s Guildhall.
In December 2012, Adichie gave a TEDxEuston address titled “We Should All Be Feminists,” in which she discussed her views on feminism. The talk sparked a global feminist debate and was later adapted into a book in 2014, which reportedly sold 750,000 copies in the United States alone.
Its popularity increased when American singer Beyoncé sampled a portion of it in her 2013 song “Flawless.”
The Danger Of A Single Story
In a TED talk titled “The Danger of a Single Story,” which was published in July 2009, Adichie discussed the underrepresentation of many cultures and the harmful effects of this phenomenon.
As a young girl, she used to read many American and British books where the majority of the characters were of Caucasian descent. Throughout her speech, she argued that the underrepresentation of cultural diversity can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of people, their origins, and their histories.
Adichie emphasized the value of many stories in various cultures and the need for representation, closing her speech with a call for a deeper knowledge of stories.
Since then, she has continued to revisit the topic in her speeches to various audiences, such as at the Hilton Humanitarian Symposium of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in 2019. The talk has become one of the most-watched TED Talks of all time, with over 27 million views.
We Should All Be Feminists
Adichie’s 2012 TEDx talk titled “We Should All Be Feminists” has been viewed by over five million people. In the lecture, given at TedXEuston in London, Adichie discussed her views on gender construction and sexuality, drawing on her experiences as an African feminist.
She expressed her anger towards the way gender is structured in today’s society, calling it a serious injustice. Adichie also stated that while anger is a powerful emotion that can bring about constructive change, she remains hopeful in people’s ability to change for the better.
During a December 8, 2021 interview with BBC News, Adichie was asked about her role as a feminist icon and her responsibility to the movement.
She stated that she preferred to define her responsibility for herself but was willing to use her platform to advocate for others. Additionally, Adichie discussed the importance of women’s right to express their rage, as it can inspire action and bring about positive change.
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In December 2013, Beyoncé used excerpts from Adichie’s TEDx lecture in her song “Flawless,” which gained attention for Adichie’s ideas. The book We Should All Be Feminists, based on the lecture, was published by Fourth Estate in 2014.
Adichie acknowledged the power of the collaboration to spark conversations on feminism among young people, but she was disappointed with the media’s framing of her as “grateful” to Beyoncé.
In subsequent interviews, Adichie clarified that she is first and foremost a writer and refused to participate in the narrative that her life was forever changed by Beyoncé.
Adichie also differentiated her feminist stance from Beyoncé’s, particularly in their views on men’s role in women’s lives.
She acknowledged the pop star’s influence in advocating for political and social issues but maintained her criticisms of those who questioned Beyoncé’s feminist identity, stating that anyone who identifies as feminist should be recognized as such.
|1997||Decisions||Minerva Press (London)||ISBN 9781861064226||Poetry|
|1998||For the love of Biafra||Spectrum Books (Ibadan)||ISBN 978978029032020||Play|
|2003||Purple Hibiscus||4th Estate (London)||ISBN 9780007189885||Novel|
|2006||Half of a Yellow Sun||4th Estate (London)||ISBN 9780007200283||Novel|
|2009||The Thing Around Your Neck||4th Estate (London)||ISBN 9780007306213||Short story collection|
|2013||Americanah||Alfred A. Knopf (New York)||ISBN 9780307271082||Novel|
|2014||We Should All Be Feminists.||4th Estate (London)||ISBN 9780008115272||An Essay (excerpt in New Daughters of Africa, ed. Margaret Busby, 2019).|
|2017||Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions||4th Estate (London)||ISBN 9780008275709||Essay|
|2019||Sierra Leone, 1997.||Black Ballon, an imprint of Catapult||ISBN 9781936787791||The story in the book Eat Joy-Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers, collected by Natalie Eve Garrett|
|2021||Notes on Grief||4th Estate (London)||ISBN 9780593320808||Memoir|
|2013||“Checking Out”||“Checking out”. The New Yorker. Vol. 89, no. 5. March 18, 2013. pp. 66–73.|
|2015||“Apollo”||“Apollo”. The New Yorker. Vol. 91, no. 8. 13 April 2015. pp. 64–69.|
|2016||“The Arrangements: A Work of Fiction”||“‘The Arrangements’: A Work of Short Fiction”. The New York Times Book Review, July 3, 2016.|
|2020||“Notes on Grief”||“Notes on Grief”. The New Yorker, September 10, 2020.|
|2020||“Zikora”||Amazon Original Stories|
Awards and Nominations
Adichie has received numerous awards and nominations throughout her career as a writer, including:
- 2019: Kasseler Burgerpreis “Prism of Reason” Award
- 2018: PEN Pinter Prize
- 2017: Grand Prix de l’Hérone Madame Figaro (nonfiction) for Dear Ijeawele
- 2015: Winner of the ‘Best of the Best’ of the second decade of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction) for Half of a Yellow Sun
- 2015: Girls Write Now Awards Groundbreaker honoree
- 2014: Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (shortlist)
- 2013: National Book Critics Circle Award
- 2013: Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction
- 2011: ThisDay Award: ”New Champions for an Enduring Culture”
- 2010: Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region, Best Book)
- 2010: Dayton Literary Peace Prize (US)
- 2009: John Llewellyn-Rhys Memorial Prize
- 2009: International Nonino Prize
- 2008: British Book Awards: Author of the Year
- 2008: MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant
- 2007: PEN ‘Beyond Margins’ Award 2007, for Half of a Yellow Sun
- 2007: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
- 2007: British Book Awards, Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year
- 2007: Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa Region, Best Book)
- 2007: James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction)
- 2007: Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction
- 2006: National Book Critics’ Circle Award (USA)
- 2005: Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book)
- 2004: Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
- 2004: John Llewelly-Rhys Memorial Prize
- 2004: Orange Prize for Fiction
- 2004: YALSA Best Book For Young Adults Award
- 2003: O Henry Short Story Prize
- 2002: BBC Short Story Competition
- 2002: Caine Prize for African Writing
- 2002: Commonwealth Short Story Competition
- 2002: David Wong Award
- 2010 Listed among The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40”
- 2013 Listed among The New York Times “Ten Best Books of 2013 for Africannah.”
- 2013 Listed among the BBC’s “Top Ten Books of 2013”, for Americanah
- 2013 Foreign Policy magazine “Top Global Thinkers of 2013”
- 2013 Listed among the New African’s “100 Most Influential Africans 2013”
- 2014 Listed among Africa39 project of 39 writers aged under 40
- 2015 Listed among Time Magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People”
- 2015 Commencement Speaker at Wellesley College
- 2017 Commencement Speaker at Williams College
- 2018 Class Day Speaker for Harvard University
- 2019 Class Day Speaker for Yale University
- Adichie was one of 15 women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, guest-edited by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
- Adichie was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2019.
- Chimamanda was also elected in March 2017 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This made her the second Nigerian to be given such an honour, after Prof. Wole Soyinka. She was listed among the 40 honorary members from 19 countries.
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