Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was born, September 15, 1977, in Enugu, Nigeria. The Nigerian author is one whose work has drawn extensively on the Nigeria-Biafra war of the late 1960s.
Background and Education
Adichie was born in the city of Enugu in Nigeria and grew up as the fifth of six children in an Igbo family in the university town of Nsukka in Enugu State. While she was growing up, her father, late James Nwoye Adichie, worked as a professor of statistics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Her mother, Grace Ifeoma, was the university’s first female registrar. The family lost almost everything during the Nigeria-Biafran War, including both maternal and paternal grandfathers. Her family’s ancestral village is in Abba, Njikoka LGA in Anambra State.
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Early in life, Adichie moved with her parents to Nsukka, Nigeria. A voracious reader from a young age, she found Things Fall Apart by novelist and fellow Igbo Chinua Achebe transformative. Adichie completed her secondary education at the University of Nigeria Secondary School, Nsukka, where she received several academic prizes. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the university’s Catholic medical students. At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria for the United States, where she studied communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Later, she soon transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University to be near her sister Uche, who had a medical practice in Coventry, Connecticut. She received a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, with the distinction of summa cum laude in 2001. Splitting her time between Nigeria and the United States, she received a master’s degrees in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and studied African history at Yale University in 2003 and 2008 respectively. While the novelist was growing up in Nigeria, she was not used to being identified by the colour of her skin but upon her arrival to the US, this changed.
As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of colour in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn. She writes about this in her novel Americanah.
Adichie was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University during the 2005–2006 academic year. In 2008 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She was also awarded a 2011–2012 fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.
Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops. In 2016, she was conferred an honorary degree – Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Johns Hopkins University. In 2017, she was conferred honorary degrees – Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Haverford College and The University of Edinburgh. In 2018, she received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Amherst College. She received an honorary degree, doctor honoris causa, from the Université de Fribourg, Switzerland, in 2019.
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Adichie: For Facts and Fictions
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 of 1960-70 between Nigeria and its secessionist Biafra republic. She later wrote several short stories about that conflict, which would become the subject of her highly successful novel Half of a Yellow Sun (2006). As a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, she 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 (later called the Orange Broadband Prize and now the Baileys Women’s 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 depicted the savagery of the war (which resulted in the displacement and deaths of perhaps a million people) but did so by focusing on a small group of characters, mostly middle-class Africans. Half of a Yellow Sun became an international bestseller 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 speech she gave at a TEDx talk in 2012; parts of the speech were also featured in Beyoncé’s song “Flawless” (2013). Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was published in 2017.
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