Nigerian-born writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a long list of awards associated with her work. Each of her three key novels, Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of A Yellow Sun (2006) and Americanah (2013) have gained critical acclaim, as well as her short stories and lecture series. Inspired by Chinua Achebe, who is arguably the one of the best Nigerian writers of the twentieth-century, Adichie paved her own path in the literary sphere. Despite impressive long lists of accolades, it is in light of the Black Lives Matter protests Adichie’s work has come to the attention of many more readers in the hope of supporting black authors and understanding more about the movement.
Adichie was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1977 as the fifth of six children and grew up on the university campus in the town of Nsukka where both her parents worked — her father was a statistics lecturer and her mother was the first female registrar to work at the University of Nigeria. At nineteen Adichie travelled to America for her studies, eventually going on to earn an MA in African Studies from Yale University. Her three novels all draw on elements of her own experiences, ranging from growing up in Nsukka to trying to comprehend how race is perceived differently in the US. Adichie’s work is highly focussed on the lives of those who are deeply impacted by societal change, not just in Nigeria directly but in the USA and UK too.
Adichie’s novels have won numerous awards and they are well deserved in every way. Nigeria continues to feel the long-lasting effects of British colonial rule which caused a number of issues regarding politics and religion. Just six years after gaining independence on October 1st 1960, Nigeria experienced its first military coup, only a year before the Nigerian Civil War. Although Adichie recognises the impact of these events in her novels her mastery of characterisation and plot mean they fade into the background, not to diminish the significance of the events themselves, but to highlight how characters live before, during and after the events of the 1960s. Adichie’s second novel, Half Of A Yellow Sun, is a perfect example as it follows the lives of twin sisters who live very differently from one another, yet as they experience love and loss during war they find their way back to one another. The outcome of the war is secondary to the impact on the characters, and this happens frequently in each of her novels; no matter what is happening on a national scale, people and their lives always take precedence.
Adichie is well known for being an advocate for feminism and female empowerment. As well as writing strong female characters, she has showcased her feminist views in her 2012 TED talk, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ which was adapted into an essay and published in 2014. Like other works this essay received critical and commercial acclaim being viewed over 6 million times on Youtube. Currently, Adichie splits her time between the United States and Nigeria where she teaches writing workshops.
Considering all of Adichie’s achievements and beautifully crafted stories, it is unsurprising that her work has been translated into over thirty languages. Adichie’s work over the last twenty years has won numerous awards, but it is the lessons learnt by readers which makes her writing so profound. In such unprecedented times people are concerned about the future, but as Adichie demonstrates in her novels, the most important lesson concerns living in the present; ‘we do not just risk repeating history if we sweep it under the carpet, we also risk being myopic about our present’.