An Icon of the Literary Craft

Meet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a #Nigerian writer whose works include novels, short stories & nonfiction.

She was described in The Times Literary Supplement 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.

BACKGROUND

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was born in September 15, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria.

She is a Nigerian writer whose second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), gained international acclaim for its depiction of the devastation caused by the Nigerian Civil War. Her novels, short stories, and nonfiction explore the intersections of identity.

Early in life Adichie, the fifth of six children, moved with her Igbo parents to Nsukka, Nigeria. A voracious reader from a young age, she found Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart transformative. 

After studying medicine for a time in Nsukka, in 1997 she left for the United States, where she studied communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University (B.A., 2001). 

Splitting her time between Nigeria and the United States, she received a master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and studied African history at Yale University.

In 1998 Adichie’s play For Love of Biafra was published in Nigeria. She later dismissed it as “an awfully melodramatic play,” but it was among the earliest works in which she explored the war in the late 1960s between Nigeria and its secessionist Biafra republic.

She later wrote several short stories about that conflict. As a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, Adichie began writing her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003). Set in Nigeria, it is the coming-of-age story of Kambili, a 15-year-old whose family is wealthy and well respected but who is terrorized by her fanatically religious father. 

Purple Hibiscus garnered the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2005 for Best First Book (Africa) and that year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (overall). It was also short-listed for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Half of a Yellow Sun (2006; film 2013), Adichie’s second novel, was the result of four years of research and writing. It was built primarily on the experiences of her parents during the Nigeria-Biafra war. 

The result was an epic novel that vividly depicts the savagery of the war (which resulted in the displacement and deaths of perhaps a million people) but does so by focusing on a small group of characters, mostly middle-class Africans. 

Half of a Yellow Sun became an international best seller and was awarded the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction in 2007. Eight years later it won the “Best of the Best” Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, a special award for the “best” prizewinner from the previous decade.

In 2008 Adichie received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. The following year she released The Thing Around Your Neck, a critically acclaimed collection of short stories. Americanah (2013) centres on the romantic and existential struggles of a young Nigerian woman studying (and blogging about race) in the United States.

Adichie’s nonfiction includes We Should All Be Feminists (2014), an essay adapted from a talk she gave at a TEDx event in 2012; parts of her talk are also featured in Beyoncé’s song “Flawless” (2013). Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was published in 2017. 

Following the death of her father, Adichie wrote Notes on Grief (2021), in which she mourned his passing and celebrated his life.


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