Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a multi-award novelist who has made name for herself worldwide through her sensationally writing and her unique African sense of style. According to UK Vogue, her writing feels timeless and contemporary all at once.
She shares her view on feminism and gender equality, black race and more in the new issue of the magazine.
Her view about Feminism
Feminism – gender equality – is a cause she cares about passionately. You don’t have to spend long in Nigeria to witness the deeply patriarchal nature of the culture, where men are always greeted as “sir” and women are lucky to be greeted at all. But Adichie was brought up in a progressive household. Born in 1977 in eastern Nigeria, she grew up in Nsukka, a university town. That part of the country is still, she says, the place where her soul is most at home; she dreams of having a farm there one day. Her father, James, was professor of statistics and, later, vice-chancellor at the University of Nigeria; Grace, her mother, was the university’s first female registrar – no small achievement. As it happens, her parents were staying with her when we met, in
the beautiful stone-floored house she built about a year ago. Married 51 years, they have a pride in their daughter that shines in their faces, as does her love for them. Right from the beginning, her books were distinguished by strong female voices: Kambili in Purple Hibiscus, Olanna in Half of a Yellow Sun, Ifemelu in Americanah.
The oppression of women, she says, “Makes me angry. I can’t not be angry. I don’t know how you can just be calm. My family says to me, ‘Oh, you’re such a man!’ – you know, very lovingly… But of course I’m not, I just don’t see why I shouldn’t speak my mind.” She got into trouble for speaking her mind in Nigeria: when an interviewer addressed her as Mrs Chimamanda Adichie, she corrected him, saying she wished to be known as “Ms”, which the journalist reported as “Miss”. Her insistence on her own family name was all over the news here last spring. She should be happy to be addressed as “Mrs”, she was told, since she was, after all, married. She laughs now, but it’s clear the story still disturbs her. “It was the lack of gratitude on my part for having a husband. And yet I didn’t want to proclaim it: I wanted to claim my own name.”
What she thinks about Black Race…..
Talking about race with Adichie is fascinating. “I only became black when I came to America,” she writes in Americanah; her character Ifemelu’s experience is drawn from her own. “In Nigeria I’m not black,” she says simply. “We don’t do race in Nigeria. We do ethnicity a lot, but not race. My friends here don’t really get it. Some of them sound like white Southerners from 1940. They say, ‘Why are black people complaining about race? Racism doesn’t exist!’ It’s just not a part of their existence.” But it has been part of hers in America, where her experience “is always shaped by race. Somebody sends a limo to pick me up, and I just notice an attitude that the white, older male driver has. He’s thinking, that’s who I’m picking up? And I can’t help thinking, if I were white, would he have a problem? If I were black and male, would he have a problem?” She has focused her attention on gender inequality because here in Nigeria, that’s her primary experience of inequality. In Nigeria she would know why a driver would have a problem with her: “Because I’m a woman.”
Read her full interview here.