Adichie, who was born in the city of Enugu, grew up the fifth of six children in an Igbo family in the university town of Nsukka. Nsukka is in Enugu State, southeast Nigeria, where the University of Nigeria is situated. While she was growing up, her father, James Nwoye Adichie, was a professor of statistics at the university, and her mother, Grace Ifeoma, was the university's first female registrar. Her family's ancestral village is in Abba in Anambra State.
Adichie studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria for the United States to study communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She soon transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University to be near her sister, who had a medical practice in Coventry. She received a bachelor's degree from Eastern, with the distinction of summa cum laude in 2001.In 2003, she completed a master's degree in
creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. In 2008, she received a Master of Arts degree in African studies from Yale University.
Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), received wide critical acclaim; it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (2005)
Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, is set before and during the Nigerian Civil War. It received the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.Her third book,
The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of twelve stories that explore the relationships between men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.
Adichie has a 15-month old daughter by Ivara Esege, a doctor who works at the University of Maryland, and is of British, American, and Nigerian parentage.
“We have to name something in order to fix it, which is why I insist on the word feminist or feminism.” Adichie says. “Many of my friends who are not white will say, ‘I’m an intersectional feminist,’ or ‘I’m a womanist.’ And I have trouble with that word, because it has undertones of femininity as this mystical goddess-mother thing, which makes me uncomfortable. So we need a word. And my hope is we use ‘feminism’ often enough that it starts to lose all the stigma and becomes this inclusive, diverse thing,” she tells The Guardian.)
The Danger of a Single Story - TED talk
Adichie spoke in a TED talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story posted in October 2009. In it, she expresses her concern for underrepresentation of various cultures.She explains that as a young child, she had often read American and British stories, where the characters were primarily caucasian.
At the lecture, she said that the underrepresentation of cultural differences may be dangerous: "Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature."
Throughout the lecture, she used personal anecdotes to illustrate the importance of sharing different stories. She briefly discussed their houseboy, Fide, and how she only knew of how poor their family was. When Adichie's family visited Fide's village, Fide's mother showed them a basket that Fide's brother had made. Adichie said, "It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them."She also said that when leaving Nigeria to go to Drexel University, she encountered the effects of the underrepresentation of her own culture. Her American roommate was surprised that Adichie was fluent in English and that she did not listen to tribal music. She said of this, "My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals."
She concluded the lecture by noting the significance of different stories in various cultures and the representation that they deserve. She advocated for a greater understanding of stories because people are complex, saying that by only understanding a single story, one misinterprets people, their backgrounds, and their histories.
She has won many awards some of which were mentioned earlier like the Caine Prize for African writing , The Commonwealth Short story Competition, BBC Measuring Prize, the O Henry Prize but the major ones are: the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Purple Hibiscus, Commonwealth Writers Prize for Half a Yellow Sun, and the Orange Prize (now called Baileys Womens Prize for Fiction) again for Americanah
Exercises for the Diligent Reader
1. ‘there was nothing to shake’ — what’s this about?
2. Whose complexion is compared to the deep brown of cocoa and who is she compared to?
3. Who is given a Chavitti Uzhichil in the novel by whom?
4. Fill in the blanks for two words from a song: Your love dey make my heart do — —.
5. What is the label used for Barack Obama in this novel and why?
6. What does doing something serious mean, in the context of this novel?
1. Obinze would tease Ifemelu that she had a small bottom when she danced in her underwear, wiggling her hips. She replied: “I was going to say shake it, but there’s nothing to shake.”
2. Obinze’s mother is compared to Nigerian singer Onyeka Onwenu.
3. Obinze is given a back massage by Ifemelu standing on his back and balancing.
4. Yori Yori, name of song by Brackett.
5. Magic Negro. Obama is called that because he is the “black man who is eternally wise and kind. He never reacts under great suffering, never gets angry, is never threatening. He always forgives all kinds of racist shit.”
6. Having sex, Obinze’s mother’s term for it.
Joe said Obinze having returned to Nigeria, thinks of appointing Nigel the young Englishman who treated him fairly at work to be the white face of a company he was setting up. Thommo considered Obinze a good guy, but KumKum insisted Kosi is to be pitied. Her defence of Kosi was unrelenting throughout the reading. Thommo thought the ardour misplaced since Kosi is a relatively minor character in the novel.
Concerning the absence of Muslim candidates in its fold the senior BJP leader, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, said “It was a weakness, not a mistake. We could not find suitable candidates confident of winning; whom the party thought could win.” Perhaps the correction for the weakness is already in the works, for Mr Naidu said in the same interview: “If [a Muslim] MLA is not there, an MLC [member of legislative council] will be there … there will be Muslim representatives in the government.”