From her notable TED talks to her feature on Beyoncé's hit song "***Flawless," meet award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who will give the 2020 commencement speech at Penn’s graduation on May 18.
1. Adichie is an award-winning author who has published six books.
Adichie is best known for her novels “Purple Hibiscus,” “Half of a Yellow Sun,” and “Americanah.” Her work features themes including politics, immigration, religion, and love. Many of her books take place in Nigeria with a conscious effort to provide children of formerly-colonized countries with books that portray realities they can identify with.
Adichie wrote her first novel, “Purple Hibiscus” during her senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University.
“Purple Hibiscus” is a coming-of-age story about a girl from a wealthy and well-respected family in Nigeria who is repressed by her fanatically religious father. The novel was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize in 2004 and awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2005.
Her second novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” published in 2006, is a fictional account of the Biafran War set in Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria and based on her parents’ experiences. The book became an international best seller and was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction (previously the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction) in 2007.
Adichie’s most recent book, “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,” was published in March 2017.
2. Adichie has delivered notable TED talks such as “We should all be feminists” and “The danger of a single story.”
In her 2009 TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” Adichie encourages listeners to seek diverse perspectives when learning about people, places, and situations to prevent a critical misunderstanding. She argues that reducing people to a singular narrative takes away their humanity.
Adichie delivered another TED talk in 2012 titled, “We Should All Be Feminists,” to discuss feminism and her experience with sexism growing up in Nigeria and later living in the United States. She offers a definition of feminism that is rooted in inclusion and awareness. Adichie argues that everyone should be a feminist, explaining how the gender divide harms all genders.
In 2014, her 2012 TED talk was turned into a short book which explores the realities of sexual politics and what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.
“We should all be feminists” was also sampled in Beyonce’s song “***Flawless" which was released in 2013.
3. The Nigerian author currently splits her time between Nigeria and the United States.
Adichie was born in Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria to Igbo parents. She grew up in Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria with her five siblings until she moved to the United States to study communication at Drexel University for two years under a scholarship. Adichie then went on to Eastern Connecticut State University where she studied communication and political science, and wrote articles for the university journal. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree in African studies from Yale University.
Adichie is a MacArthur Foundation fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Adichie, who is now married and has a daughter, regularly teaches creative writing workshops when in Nigeria.
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