Alice Robson highlights an inspiring author and activist
Image(s): Feminists in India
I was seventeen when my best friend gave me a small book for my birthday. ‘I thought it was perfect for you!’ she laughed as I unwrapped it, revealing the cover. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a transcription of her TED talk. I agreed with every single word.
Award-winning author, feminist, and activist, Adichie has penned three novels, a collection of short stories, and given several TED talks.
I was initially drawn to Adichie because of her subject-matter – a Nigerian author who wrote about the Nigerian civil war, the experience of a Nigerian woman who immigrated to America, and the complexities of religion and society in Nigeria were all topics which hadn’t been covered by any school or university syllabus I’d come across. But it was how Adichie’s writing made me feel, how it spoke to me, that had me hooked. Adichie writes images and metaphors so intricately detailed and interwoven they’ve spun into a beautiful web before you even realise it. Her characters were full human beings. The protagonists, mostly female, stand big and bold, flawed and entirely real, and so do her other characters that other authors would often not flesh out so well.
What really struck me about Adichie was how vividly I came to understand the world her characters inhabited, and how beautifully she painted this world to be. Adichie perfectly captures what it is like to live in our world today but to make it seem beautiful. And so, in turn, I began to look at the world slightly differently.
Americanah, the story of a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the United States, is one of my favourite novels of all time. Adichie fully recognized what it is like to be a young woman, in love, afraid, alone, on her own adventure, and she made me feel hopeful for where my life could go, and what adventures will come my way. One of the final lines reads “she had, finally, spun herself fully into being”. I have since sat and thought about that line for hours.
Many of my friends, male and female, have felt keenly recognised by Adichie’s work. So many of our mistakes, flaws, and humanity can be found in Adichie’s works, crossing language and cultural divides. I think that’s the testament of a truly brilliant artist. To perceive humanity clearly is one thing, to be able to create something which truly represents humanity is quite another. Every single word Adichie writes has me entranced, each page contains an aspect of truth about myself I hadn’t even known existed. There is a beautiful power in Adichie’s writing, and I find myself returning to her works again and again, desperate to see the world as she does. To understand, to listen, and to create.