Today marks the 39th birthday of celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ! The award-winning novelist, and short story writer is regarded as one of African Literature’s contemporary gems. Here are ten facts you might not know about this badass queen.
1. The apple didn’t fell far from the tree : She comes from a long line of strong women
Adichie’s mother was the University of Nigeria’s first female registrar, serving as the head of the administrative section of the university. Her sister operates a medical practice in Coventry, Connecticut.
2. Her heroes are ordinary women
Not surprising then that in an interview with Vogue Magazine, when asked if she sees herself as a feminist heroine, her answer was that “The real heroes are the nameless women in the market, who are holding their families together. They are traders and their husbands are out drinking somewhere… It’s those women I admire. I am full of admiration for them”.
3. She grew up in a house once owned by Achebe, and her desire to write was sparked by his work.
Adichie credits one of Africa’s finest writers, Chinua Achebe, Igbo author of Nigerian masterwork Things Fall Apart, with her literary success. She once lived in Achebe’s house and believes his halo surrounded her. After reading his book at 10 years old, she realized that people who looked like her could exist in books. Using that inspiration, Adichie has been writing about the Nigerian experience throughout her career.
4. She is a fashion icon
Adichie’s mother was always very concerned about her daughter’s appearance, and instilled the same value in her children. When Adichie first burst onto the writing scene in the U.S., she tried to dress more subdued in an attempt to be taken seriously, but soon realized that her personal style had the right to shine through. Her fashion icon his soon to be former first lady of the United States Michelle Obama.
5. She gave feminism a new name
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you will threaten the man”. Adichie delivered a TED x Talk in December 2012 so nuanced and rousing, that Beyoncé sampled it in her empowerment anthem Flawless. Titled We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie’s oration weaved together human stories from her youth in Nigeria with an inspiring discourse about gender roles in the modern world and a modern definition of “feminism”. Today, the speech is available in eBook form.
6. Her father was kidnapped because of her fame
Last year in May, Chimamanda Adichie’s father Professor James Nwoye Adichie was kidnapped on his way to Nsukka to Aba in Anambra. He was freed three days later. In an interview with BBC, the Nigerian author spoke on how she dealt with the tragic experience. “We still have nightmares. I felt deeply hurt. I also felt very angry… I never imagined it would happen to us. And to an 80 year old father like my father who spent his whole life teaching for Nigeria… I felt Nigeria had failed us… One person has now been caught and is in custody but in general we still don’t know” she stated. “My father was very keen to protect me. He kept saying to them – I don’t have her number on my phone, I don’t remember it” she further said.
7. Another Africa
Chimamanda Adichie tries to combat the image of Africans as portrayed by Western media. Choosing to write first from her experience as an affluent and educated Nigerian, she was often criticized for shying away from the “real” Africa. But she struggled to write characters who were not “starving, or begin bullied by Mugabe, or dying of AIDS”.
8. “Half of a Yellow Sun”
Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), which was first published as a short story, has been adapted into a movie of the same name. The film adaptation, directed by Nigerian Biyi Bandele, features Hollywood acts like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Nollywood’s Genevieve Nnaji. The book is set before and during the Biafran war, and its title reflects the flag of the short-lived independent nation.
9. She believes in giving back
She’s been organising Creative Writing Workshop annually since 2008 to encourage and help Nigerian youth.
10. She loves to keep her private life… Private !
Chimamanda Adichie is fiercely protective of her private life. Though she once described marriage as a “dangerous” institution for women, she is happily married to Dr. Ivara Esege, a Nigerian doctor based in Maryland, in the United States and she doesn’t like to be called Mrs. “I dont like this at all. My name is Chimamanda Adichie, full stop”. She privately gave birth to a baby girl sometime around July 2016. “I have some friends who probably don’t know I was pregnant or that I had a baby. I just feel like we live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy. We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood. I went into hiding. I wanted it to be as personal as possible”. She splits her time between the Unites States and Nigeria.