Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on grief, feminism and identity // The Observer


New York Times bestselling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke Friday at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Adichie’s novels “Americanah”, “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Purple Hibiscus” explore themes of feminism and race in both Adichie’s native Nigeria and the United States. Adichie is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant and is known for her TED talks, “The danger of a single story » and “We should all be feminists.

The Adichie conference is part of the Sr. Kathleen Cannon, OP Distinguished Lecture Series designed to bring “extraordinary women” to the Notre Dame campus.

Adichie began by reading an excerpt from ‘Notes on Grief’, her recent essay on the loss of her father in the summer of 2020. She said grief was a ‘cruel type of upbringing’ and reflected on the loss lived with his family during the pandemic.

“Our Zoom call is beyond surreal,” she said. “We are all crying and crying and crying in different parts of the world… It was extreme how desperate I was for Nigerian airports to be open so I could catch a flight to Lagos and then to Asaba and drive the hour until to my hometown to see my father for myself.”

She also discussed “Zikora,” a collection of fictional short stories she published in October 2020. “Zikora” blends an honest depiction of childbirth with stories about how patriarchal structures persist in lives that seem exempt.

“There’s so much about women’s lived experiences that I want to demystify,” she said. “I want to get rid of the shame attached to so many things that come with womanhood in the world.”

“Zikora” also explores resentment between mothers and daughters.

“Resentment is really not about individuals,” Adichie said. “It’s about this bigger structure that women are forced to live in.”

Adichie also discussed feminism in her lecture.

“The world is a misogynistic space…and I worry because misogyny can kind of get wrapped up in the language of love, so we hold women to higher standards, which is unfair,” a- she declared. “We then sometimes judge them more harshly for things that we wouldn’t judge men for.”

She said she was following closely Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and she believes Jackson was questioned “in the most disrespectful, unacceptable and misogynistic way.”

“If we live in a country where a white man can scream like a toddler when questioned and still confirmed, we should also come to a point where a black woman can say ‘shut up’ and always be commended for that,” Adichie said.

Discussing her unique perspective on race in her works, Adichie explained how her black identity was not the one she grew up with, but the one she came to assume when she came to America as a student. .

“In Nigeria, I was an Igbo person and I was Catholic,” she said.I hadn’t really thought of myself in a pan-African way, but coming to the United States, people were asking me about Namibia, which I barely knew was in Africa.

She said her novel “Americanah” is about this processs to “go black” in a country where race is so entrenched.

“If Blackness weren’t so laden with negative stereotypes, I wouldn’t have felt the need to bfar from it,” Adichie said. “There’s a kind of anxiety among immigrants about wanting to do well and be successful, and if that means denying something that you don’t think is the most positive, you do it anyway.”

Over time, Adichie said she’s come to embrace blackness as an identity, but it’s an identity that’s only prominent for her in America.

“When I walk into a room anywhere in America, I look to see how many black people are here…and I do things like say hello to every black person I see,” she said. “In Nigeria all of this is irrelevant, and instead I am very alert and aware of the nuances of my femininity.”

When asked what advice she would give to writers in the audience, she said she thought it was important for writers to read. She recommended that they read poetry, and rather than thinking of it as a puzzle and trying to figure out what it means, she said they should read it to “let the languages ​​flow through [their] body.”

Tags: blackness, Chimamanda Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, DeBartolo Preforming Arts Center, Feminism, Kathleen Cannon OP Distinguished Lecture, lecture


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