Death can mark the ways we write and the ways we read. In a recent presentation at the Royal Festival Hall in London, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said,
“I’ve always felt one step removed from my present. Even at family gatherings I’m sort of always watching everyone. There’s a part of me that holds back and watches – there’s a part of me that’s not engaged because I’m watching. Because there’s a storytelling thing in my soul that requires that.”
And Adichie has proven that the storyteller in her soul knows what it is doing. It has been nearly 10 years since she published her masterful novel Half of a Yellow Sun, which tells some of the stories of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). For Adichie, these stories are personal. Both of her grandfathers died in that war, and so the book is “about the story of how we became who we are.” Those deaths matter. Those deaths linger in her retellings of their stories.
Since publishing Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie has continued to create political, powerful works. In 2013, she gave a TEDx Talk titled “We Should All Be Feminists” that discussed modern gender roles and the ways those roles function in daily life. The talk was so compelling that Beyonce sampled it in the song “Flawless”. (Which surprised Adichie as much as anyone.)
Though Adichie’s work doesn’t usually align with my preferred genre, she always captures humanity in succinct, beautiful fashion, and I can’t help but return to her writings. If you haven’t had a chance to read her work, now would be a wonderful time to rectify that. For an introduction to her, I suggest starting with Buzzfeed’s surprisingly thorough discussion of Adichie’s presentation at London. You can find that article here.
Happy reading! If you’re already familiar with some of Adichie’s work such as Half of a Yellow Sun or Americanah, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.