Reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – February 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). February was spent reading as many works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whom I had never read before, as I could. The following are the books I managed to complete:

we-should-all-be-feministsTitle: We Should All Be Feminists
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Nonfiction essay
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Pages: 52
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: library Libby app
Date finished reading:  February 1, 2019

Goodreads Description: What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

n128815Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Cultural fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: October 30, 2003
Pages: 336
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: library Libby app
Date finished reading: February 8, 2019

Goodreads Description: Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

dear-ijeaweleTitle: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Nonfiction essay
Publisher: Knopf Publishing House
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Pages: 63
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: library Libby app
Date finished reading:  February 13, 2019

Goodreads Description: A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response.

Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions–compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive–for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 447
Format Read: book
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: local public library
Date finished reading: March 3, 2019

Goodreads Description: Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My Review: I really enjoyed reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie this month. I highly recommend everything I read by her.

I am going to start by discussing by discussing her fiction works that I read: Purple Hibiscus and Americanah. Both novels tackle important issues. Be advised that there is a trigger warning for domestic violence in Purple Hibiscus. Purple Hibiscus was a powerful family story told from the perspective of a young girl, named Kambili. You receive a glimpse into Nigerian society and political upheaval. The political strife and violence is mirrored in the horrors that happen inside her own home. Kambili’s father is violently abusive to her mother, her brother, JaJa, and eventually to her as well. Until they go and spend time with their aunt, Kambili and Jaja believe that their home life is normal. They begin to understand that that violence is not normal. You can feel the intensity grow as it leads to the climactic ending. This is an amazing story, written beautifully, that just tears your heart apart.

Americanah is another powerful fiction novel that discusses a multitude of issues such as education, immigration, cultural differences and racism. When universities stop paying their teachers in Nigeria, the teachers go on strike. To get the education that she desires, Ifemelu applies and gets into a program at a university in the United States. She leaves her parents and the man that she loves and moves to America. There she is struck with a load of cultural differences including something as basic as language – American English expressions and terms not used in other English speaking countries. In the end, the biggest adjustment for Ifemelu, which ended up driving her to eventually create a successful and profitable blog, was her introduction to race and racism. As an American, it is hard to imagine a place in this world where the color of your skin is not something that people see when they look at you. Americanah defines and discusses issues regarding race in a somewhat aggressive and necessary way.

“But race is not biology; race is sociology. Race is not genotype; race is phenotype. Race matters because of racism. And racism is absurd because it’s about how you look. Not about the blood you have. It’s about the shade of your skin and the shape of your nose and the kink of your hair.” ~Ifemelu’s blog post “Is Obama Anything but Black”

Adichie also makes reference to a connection between race and immigration policies.

“Well, yes, but that is because countries in Europe were based on exclusion and not, as in America, on inclusion,” Mark said. “But it’s also a different psychology, isn’t it?” Hannah said. “European countries are surrounded by countries that are similar to one another, while America has Mexico, which is really a developing country, and so it creates a different psychology about immigration and borders.” ~A discussion about immigration in England (Europe immigration vs. American immigration)

I can’t help wonder in what ways Americanah would be revised if written today instead of ten years ago. The blog posts in Americanah include some of the best writing I’ve read. I kept putting post-its on every page that had a line or two that meant something to me or moved me or made me think outside of my sometimes too sheltered life. Eventually the whole book just became littered with post-its.

After writing Purple Hibiscus and Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote some essay collections that discussed another important social issue – feminism and the roles of women in the home and in society. We Should All Be Feminists (WSABF) and Dear Ijeawele are both great works that discuss this important issue. There are so many great quotes in WSABF that it was hard to choose my favorite, but here they are:

“Culture functions ultimately to ensure the preservation and continuity of a people.”

“I want to be respected in all my femaleness, because I deserve to be.”

The difference between feminism and human rights: “Choose to use the vague expression ‘human rights’ is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.”

“Gender matters everywhere in the world, and I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world – a fairer world.”

We Should All Be Feminists really spoke to me on why gender issues matter and some of the ways women are treated differently just because they are women.

Dear Ijeawele creates 15 points that I feel really touch on women’s daily roles in society. When my mother was growing up, she was taught how to care for a home and children. If she wanted a career, there were really only three options: nursing, secretarial work and teaching. She became a nurse but gave up her nursing career when she had kids. I took a very different route in my life. I achieved an advanced education and started a career working in finances. I hate housework and really cannot cook well. My husband actually does most of the cooking and is really good at it. (On a side note, my favorite quote (maybe of all time) is one that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes on this point – “the knowledge of cooking does not come preinstalled in a vagina.”) My husband and I have also decided not to have children, which is a decision that we but mostly I have been interrogated and criticized for. What I love about Dear Ijeawele is that Adichie says that all these decisions should be perfectly acceptable choices for women in society. That you should not define yourself solely as a mother or solely has a career women but all those things are equal. That you can be a mother and a career-orientated person. That men should equally be described by their careers and fatherhood. That men should have the same role in the house as women do. They should put in equal time with kids and with housework as women do. That point really resonated with me. I think we can all hope that the next generation of young women will never be told they cannot do something because they are women.

If you would like to hear more from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, please check out her TED Talk.

Please let me know your thoughts on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s fiction and/or nonfiction in the comment section below. Next month I’ll be reading David McCullough.


3 thoughts on “Reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – February 2019

  1. Great post! I haven’t read We Should all be feminists and Dear Ijaweala but I hope to do so soon. Chima really does beautiful and all her stories tackle serious issues. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’ve read all her novels and I should say that her best are Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. I have yet to read We Should All Be Feminist. I heard her speak in Tedtalk. She’s good.

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