Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks with Bookforum

Memory, Witness, and War

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie never expected to reach a US audience with her second novel, the 2007 Orange Prize–winning Half of a Yellow Sun (just released in paperback by Anchor). The novel depicts the lives of a thirteen-year-old houseboy who serves and is educated by a revolutionary university professor; the professor’s girlfriend, a sociology instructor from an elite family; and an aspiring Biafran—an Igbo-speaking Englishman—during the Biafran War (in which the Igbo people, who reside in southeastern Nigeria, attempted to secede).

She wondered, “Why would Americans be interested in an African war that happened in the 1960s?” So she was pleasantly surprised when her exhilarating, intertwining narratives of love, betrayal, violence, and enlightenment during one of the most tumultuous chapters of Nigerian history earned her critical praise and a wide readership. It certainly redeemed her decision ten years earlier to leave medical school and pursue her literary ambitions. Raised by a math professor and a university administrator in a house once occupied by Chinua Achebe, thirty-year-old Adichie—who divides her time between the United States and Nigeria—is struggling to balance book promotion with graduate school at Yale in African studies (this would be her second master’s degree). It’s a quandary she is proud to find herself in.

I spoke by phone with Adichie—she was funny, brilliant, and gracious—in early October about growing up in post-Biafran Nigeria and about the devastating process of confronting and unpacking the brutal, ravaged history of her family and her country, even as both her relatives and her fellow Nigerians have resisted doing it themselves.

Read the interview @ BookForum


~ by eneryvibes on 1,December 5, 2010.

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