Biography & Career Of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a popular writer and novelist whose work has been translated into more than thirty languages. Her stories has been published on premium publications like Zoetrope, The New Yorker, The Financial Times and Granta, among others.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Background

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on 15th September, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. Her father, James Nwoye Adichie was a professor of Statistics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka while her mother, Grace Ifeoma was the first female registrar of the same university. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the fifth of six children. During the Nigerian Civil War, Chimamanda’s family lost almost all they had including paternal and maternal grandfathers.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Educational Background

Chimamanda had her secondary school education at the university of Nigeria secondary school. Thereafter, she proceeded to University of Nigeria, Nsukka where she studied medicine and pharmacy for one year and half. While in UNN, she edited ‘The Compass’, a magazine run by UNN catholic medical students.

Subsequently, she moved to the United States at age 19 to study Communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. After sometime, she transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University for her Bachelors degree so she can be closer to her sister, Uche, who had a medical practice in Coventry, Connecticut. Meanwhile, Chimamanda had her fair share of racism while in United States. The experience got to her so much that she penned it down in her novel, ‘Americanah’. Eventually, she graduated with the distinction of ‘summa cum laude’ from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2001.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie proceeded to John Hopkins University in 2003 for a masters degree in creative writing. In addition, she holds a Masters of Arts degree in African Studies from Yale University, Connecticut.

During the 2005-2006 academic year, the novelist was a hodder fellow at Princeton University. As a mark of recognition of her brilliancy, she was awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 2008. Also, she was awarded a 2011-2012 fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has the following honorary degrees to her credit:

  • John Hopkins University, Doctor of Humane letters, ‘honoris causa’, ,2016

  • Haverford College & University of Edinburgh, Doctor of Humane letters, ‘honoris causa’, 2017

  • Amherst College, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2018

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Writing Career

Ngozi drew her first inspiration from Chinua Achebe’s book, ‘Things Fall Apart’, and ‘Arrow of God’ at age 10. Afterwards, in 1997, she published her first collection of poems, ‘Decisions’, as well as a play, ‘For Love of Biafra’ in 1998. Adichie wrote her first novel, ‘Purple Hibiscus’ in 2003. The story, which started with a quote from ‘Things Fall Apart’ attracted several prizes and recognition.

In 2006, Ngozi came up with another interesting novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, named after Biafra’s struggle in Nigeria. The novel garnered praises, several awards and was made into a movie. The movie was released in 2014 with cast including, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.

Adichie wrote her third book, ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ in 2009. The book contain 12 stories on relationships between Africa and United States, men and women, parents and their children. In 2013, the talented writer also wrote ‘Americanah’, a tender story of race and identity.

The novel, ‘Americanah’ is licensed for publication in 29 languages and got selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2013. Apart from that, it also won the ‘One Book, One New York’ program, an initiative that encourages uniform reading in march 2017.

In the same year, she was one of the 228 new members inducted into the 237th class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The honor is considered to be one of the biggest to be conferred on intellectuals in United States.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in March 2017, published another book, ‘Dear Ijeawale, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’. The book which was written as a letter to a friend contains 15 compelling suggestions on how to train a daughter to become a strong, independent woman.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Lectures

‘The Danger of a Single Story’ TED Talk

Chimamanda Adichie gave a talk at TED talk in July 2009 titled, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’. The talk became one of the most viewed videos in TED talk’s archive.

Furthermore, she talked about how our cultures and lives are filled with over-generalised stories. She further explained how she found her authentic cultural voice.

During the lecture, she shared her experience with Fide, the houseboy working for her family. According to her, the only story she knew about Fide’s family was how poor they were until she visited her family. To her surprise, Fide’s mother showed her the basket made by Fide’s brother. Then, she realized that her conclusions about Fide was not right after all. Other than being poor, someone in his family can create something beautiful.

To further buttress her point, she mentioned her experience with her room mate while in Dextel University. Apparently, her room mate was surprised
she spoke English language fluently and didn’t listen to tribal music. Before then, the story her room mate knew about Nigeria was that of catastrophe, people not been able to speak for themselves and the likes.

She concluded by saying that people and countries are complex and should not be judged solely by a single story.

We Should All Be Feminists” TEDx Talk

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the talk ‘We Should All Be Feminist’ at TEDx Euston, London in 2012. The talk aimed at giving the definition of feminism in the 21st century. In her speech, she argued that feminism is not an insult but rather a label that should be embraced by all. She said: “I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human to make and remake themselves for the better.”

Thereafter, in 2013, Beyonce featured part of the talk in her song ‘Flawless’. Also, in 2014, Harper-Collins which is one of the world’s leading publishers
wrote an essay based on the speech as a standalone volume.

Adichie in an interview with Dutch Magazine De Volkskrant acknowledged that with ‘Flawless’, Beyonce has reached lots of people with the word feminism. However, she think her style of feminism is quite different from that of Beyonce. ‘We should all be feminist’ was thereafter published into a book in 2014.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Books

  • Purple Hibiscus, 2003

  • Half of a Yellow Sun, 2006

  • The Thing Around Your Neck, 2009

  • Americanah, 2013

  • We Should All Be Feminist, 2014

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Short Fiction

  • Checking Out, 2013

  • Apollo, 2015

  • The Arrangements: A Work of Fiction, 2016

Awards and Nominations

  • Caine Prize for African Writing ‘You in America’ 2002

  • Commonwealth Short Story Competition, ‘The Tree in Grandma’s Garden’, 2002

  • BBC Measuring Competition, ‘That Harmattan Morning’ 2002

  • David T. Wong International Short Story Prize (PEN American Center Award), ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, 2002/2003

  • O. Henry Prize, ‘The American Embassy’, 2003

  • Hurston-Wright Legacy Award: Best Debut Fiction Category, ‘Purple Hibiscus’, 2004

  • Orange Prize, ‘Purple Hibiscus’, 2004

  • Booker Prize, ‘Purple Hibiscus’, 2004

  • Young Adult Library Services Association Best Books for Young Adults Award, ‘Purple Hibiscus’, 2004

  • John Llewelllyn Rhys Prize, ‘Purple Hibiscus’, 2004/2005

  • Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Best First Book (Africa), ‘Purple Hibiscus’, 2005

  • Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Best First Book (Overall), ‘Purple Hibiscus’, 2005

  • National Book Critics Circle Award, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, 2006

  • British Book Awards: Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, 2007

  • James Tait Black Memorial Prize, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, 2007

  • Anisfield-Wolf Book Award: Fiction category ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, 2007

  • PEN Beyond Margins Award, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, 2007

  • Orange Broadband Prize: Fiction Category, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, 2007

  • International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2008

  • Future Award, Nigeria: Young Person of the Year Category, 2008

  • MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, 2008

  • International Nonino Prize, 2009

  • Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, 2009

  • John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, 2009

  • Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Best Book (Africa) ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, 2010

Other Awards and Recognitions

  • New Yorker’s ’20 Under 40′, 2010

  • Dayton Literary Peace Prize, ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, 2010

  • This Day Awards: ‘New Champions for an Enduring Culture” category, 2011

  • Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize: Fiction Category, ‘Americanah’, 2013

  • National Book Critics Circle Award: Fiction category, ‘Americanah’, 2013

  • The New York Times, ‘Ten Best Books, ‘Americanah’, 2013

  • BBC’s Top Ten Books, ‘Americanah’, 2013

  • Foreign Policy magazine, Tope Global Thinkers’, 2013

  • New African’s, 100 Most Influential Africans, 2013

  • Africa39 project of 39 writers aged under 40, 2014

  • Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, ‘Americanah’, 2014

  • Andre Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, ‘Americanah’ 2014

  • MTV Africa Music Awards, Personality of the Year, 2014

  • Commencement Speaker at Wellesley College, 2015

  • Time Magazine’s, The 100 Mos Influential People, 2015

  • International Dublin Literacy Award, ‘Americanah’ 2015

  • Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, ‘Beyonce featuring We should all be feminist’, 2015

  • Commencement Speaker at Williams College, 2017

  • PEN Pinter Prize, 2018

  • Class Day Speaker for Harvard University, 2018

  • Class Day Speaker for Yale University, 2019

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