When one of my friends informed me that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was an Eastern alumna, I knew exactly who I’d be writing about for my third installment of F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday. I was excited to learn more about Chimamanda – I hope you are too!
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on September 15, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. She was the fifth child born to Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie, her Igbo parents. Her childhood home was in Nsukka, Nigeria – her house itself it was formerly occupied by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe.
Chimamanda’s secondary education was completed at the University of Nigeria’s school. Her father worked as the first professor of statistics for the university. Her mother was the first female registrar at the university, as well. Chimamanda continued her studies at the university; for over a year she studied pharmacy and medicine there. While she attended the University of Nigeria, she also served as editor of The Compass, a magazine run by the university’s Catholic medical students.
When she was nineteen years old, Chimamanda decided to attend college in the United States. For two years, she studied communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia on a scholarship. However, she ended up transferring to Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Connecticut and graduating summa cum laude with degrees in communication and political science in 2001. Afterwards, she received her master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
During her senior year at Eastern, Chimamanda started writing her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was eventually released in October 2003. Half of a Yellow Sun, her second novel, is set before and during the Biafran War, also known as the Nigerian Civil War. Chimamanda’s books have been published in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Nigeria.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University. She also received her master’s degree in African Studies from Yale University in 2008. The Thing around Your Neck, Chimamanda’s collection of short-stories, was published in 2009.
Chimamanda has won almost twenty awards, most of them literary-based. She has won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in 2004, the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction in 2007, and 2013 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, among many other awards.
In April of 2013, Chimamanda delivered a TED Talk called “We Should All Be Feminists.” She touched upon issues that women in Africa and women throughout the world face each day. Beyoncé sampled a portion of the TED Talk in the song “Flawless” from her 2013 self-titled album. To watch the TED Talk, click here. To listen and watch the video for “Flawless,” click here.
Today, Chimamanda is married. She spends time in both Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops, and in the United States.
“I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TED Talk: “We Should All Be Feminists”