Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entered Persson Auditorium this past Thursday to excited murmurs from attendees and members of Col-gate’s Living Writers English class who had been studying her works and had met with her earlier that day.
Indeed, when Adichie was applauded on the stage after an eloquent speech from Associate Professor of English Jennifer Brice, she proved to be as talented as her whispering admirers de-scribed. A member of the Igbo ethnic group of Southeast Nigeria, Adichie’s distinctive accent paired with her American clothing brands evidenced her success at bringing together two diverging worlds. Currently splitting her time between the United States and Nigeria, Adichie is respected for her role in attracting a new generation towards African literature.
This impressive statement regarding her work is bolstered by her incredible track record. Adichie’s debut novel, “Purple Hibiscus,” published in 2003, won the Commonwealth Writ-ers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was fol-lowed by her selection as a Hodder Fellow at Princeton Uni-versity. Adichie’s second novel, “Half a Yellow Sun,” a title that references the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. Her latest publication, a collection of short stories titled “The Thing Around Your Neck” won the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize.
Adichie has been featured in The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” fic-tion issue and has also had her stories published in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003, The Financial Times and Zoetrope.
While Colgate’s Living Writers class focused on Adichie’s novel “Purple Hibiscus,” the author did not read aloud from her debut novel onstage, instead sharing three vivid memoir pieces with her audience. Focusing on her relationships with her sister, uncle and childhood home, the three excerpts instantly created an intimate connection between speaker and audience. While reading her first piece, a description of Adichie’s sister’s first encounter with revenge, the author interspersed the narrative with personal stories from their youth. The story, Adichie explained, chronicled the first time she had seen her sister stripped of her outer shell of perfection.
The second story, which revolved around the author’s last conversation with her beloved, cancer-ridden uncle, and the final one, which lovingly described the joys experienced in her family’s home, painted a rich portrait of Nigerian culture, as well as the commonalities that her African characters share with all people.
Pairing red hibiscuses and cashew trees with the disintegra-tion of nations and families, Adichie’s memoir pieces, short sto-ries and novels evince an impassioned country filled with the joys and terrors experienced by families and communities all over the globe.
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