If anyone understands the power of narrative, it’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The highly-acclaimed Nigerian author has many achievements to her name, including becoming a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and having one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time, “The Danger of A Single Story.”
There’s no doubt that the narratives found in stories shape how we see the world. Adichie knows too well how problems can arise when a narrative has missing pieces. Recently, she attended La Nuit Des Idees (The Night of Ideas) in Paris as a guest speaker. During an interview, journalist Caroline Broué asked her if Nigeria had bookshops, following with “I ask because French people don’t know. They know only about Boko Haram.”
Adichie took to Facebook, explaining the problems with asking this question. She writes that such a question perpetuates the notion “that Africa is so apart, so pathologically ‘different,’ that a non-African cannot make reasonable assumptions about life there.”
“I am a Nigerian writer whose early education was in Nigeria,” she continues. “It is reasonable to expect that Nigeria has at least one bookshop, since my books are read there. Had the question been ‘is it difficult to get access to books?’ Or ‘are books affordable?’ It would have been different, worth engaging with, fair.”
Check out these six books, which could shape your own views on narratives surrounding feminism, family, African history, and Nigeria. These books can be found in bookstores across the globe — including those in Nigeria:
1. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions
In a contemporary take on feminism, Adichie offers fifteen suggestions on how raising daughters to become empowered and independent women. The book takes the form of a letter to a friend, reminding readers that the roots of feminism can grow out of the conversations we have with the people around us.
The point of the book reveals itself in the title, but We Should All Be Feminists has so much more to say about the value of gender equality. Adichie redefines feminism by emphasizing the need for inclusion and understanding. Her personal experiences sing through a narrative that does not point fingers, but instead tells the world why gender equality benefits us all.
Ifemelu and Obinze, two young students who fall in love, must part ways with each other while escaping military-reigning Nigeria. In America, Ifemelu struggles with racism and the concept of blackness, despite her academic success. In London, Obinze discovers a dangerous new world as an undocumented immigrant after 9/11. Adichie tackles multiple aspects of race and identity in this thought-provoking novel.
This collection examines different conflicts of identity through twelve breathtaking short stories. Many of these works take an in-depth look at how identity plays out in relationships, including those between siblings, parents and children, wives and husbands, and even between strangers. Through a sharp lens, Adichie explores life in both America and Nigeria in a collection of the colliding worlds.
The novel follows a 13-year-old houseboy, a professor’s mistress, and a young Englishmen. Their lives are forever changed as Biafra attempts to establish an independent republic in Nigeria, leading to violent events that now stand as part of Africa’s history. With compelling statements on colonialism, class, race, and ethnicity, Half of a Yellow Sun creates an unforgettable look into a historical moment – and the complexities that shaped it.
Adichie’s premier novel, Purple Hibiscus, tells a coming-of-age story about the different meanings of freedom. As a military coup begins to rise in Nigeria, fifteen-year-old Kambili’s father sends her and her brother to live with their aunt, whose loud and loving house opens up a new reality. Kambili finds an escape from repression that allows her to discover the beauty of defiance and the power of resistance.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works fight against “The Danger of a Single Story” by telling her own tales, challenging the ways we view Africa and the world as a whole.