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Chimamanda Adichie: Quintessence Of A Literary Icon



The Nigerian born novelist, non-fiction and short story writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been making Nigeria proud with her various achievements and raw quality.

Born on September 15, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria she was raised in Nsukka, near the University of Nigeria where her father, James Nwoye Adichie, was a professor of statistics and later the deputy vice-chancellor of the University. Her mother, Ifeoma Aidichie, became the first female registrar of the University.

Adichie is the fifth child in a family of six children. She is of Igbo descent and her ancestral home is in Abba.

She formerly pursued a career in medicine when she enrolled in medical school at the behest of her father. At age 19, she dropped out of that path and decided to pursue instead, her dream of becoming a writer. She bagged a scholarship to study communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, United States of America. And in 2001, began MFA courses in literature at Johns Hopkins University. Then in 2008, she received a Master of Arts degree in African studies from Yale University.

In 2016, she was conferred an honorary degree – Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, by Johns Hopkins University. And 2017, she was conferred honorary degrees – Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, by Haverford College, and The University of Edinburgh.

It does not cross the mind of people that the great novelist is married with a daughter because she prefers to be addressed as ‘Miss.’ However, she is married to a mixed-race medical doctor whom she describes as Nigerian, American and British.

The stories she heard of the Nigerian Civil War (1967- 1970) which claimed the life of her grandfather in a refugee camp and other things she has encountered as an individual, influence her writing style.

Adichie, who divides her time between Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops, and the United States, once revealed in an interview that leaving Nigeria made her more aware of being a Nigerian and it also made  her aware of race as a concept, because she didn’t think of herself as black, until she left Nigeria.

Adichie has to her credit, a published collection of poems, ‘Decisions,’ 1997 and a play, ‘For Love of Biafra,’ 1998. She was shortlisted in 2002 for the Caine Prize for her short story ‘You in America,’ and her story, ‘That Harmattan Morning, was selected as a joint winner of the 2002 BBC World Service Short Story Awards.

In 2003, she won the O. Henry Award for ‘The American Embassy,’ and the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002/2003 (PEN Center Award). Her stories were also published in Zoetrope: All-Story, and Topic Magazine.

Her first novel, ‘Purple Hibiscus,’ 2003, received wide critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004, and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2005. ‘Purple Hibiscus’ starts with an extended quote from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

Her second novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ 2006, named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, is set before and during the Nigerian Civil War. It received the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ has been adapted into a film of the same title directed by Biyi Bandele, starring BAFTA award-winner and Academy Award nominee, Chiwetel Ejiofor and BAFTA winner, Thandie Newton. It was released in 2014.

Adichie’s third book, ‘The Thing Around Your Neck,’ 2009, is a collection of 12 stories that explore the relationship between men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.

In 2010 she was listed among the authors of The New Yorkers ‘20 Under 40’ Fiction Issue. Adichie’s story ‘Ceiling’ was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Her feminist talk and 2012 Commonwealth lecture on connecting cultures, gave rise to American Singer and Actress Beyonce’s Song, ‘Flawles.’ Her third novel, ‘Americanah,’ 2013, an exploration of a young Nigerian encountering race in America, was selected by The New York Times as one of ‘The 10 Best Books of 2013.

Adichie’s three novels all focus on contemporary Nigerian culture, its political turbulence and at times, how it can intersect with the West.

In April 2014, she was named as one of 39 writers aged under 40 in the Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club project Africa39, celebrating Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital 2014. In 2015, she was co-curator of the PEN World Voices Festival. Her most recent book, ‘Dear Ijeawele,’ or ‘A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,’ published in March 2017, had its origins in a letter Adichie wrote to a friend who had asked for advice about how to raise her daughter as a feminist.





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