Nigerian-born author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is coming to Duke this Friday, September 5, to deliver a book talk and discussion about her third novel, "Americanah."
Adichie is perhaps most well known for her TED talk, "We Should All Be Feminists" and her cameo appearance on Beyoncé's track, "Flawless.” In “Flawless,” Chimamanda’s regal Nigerian accent rises coolly above Beyoncé’s impassioned cry to “bow down, b*****s,” asking, “Why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage/And we don't teach boys the same?” She defines feminism in a simple, yet powerful way: “Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” Since then, Adichie has become a rallying figure in the ongoing discourse on feminism and, particularly in light of her own writing, its intersection with race and ethnicity.
"Americanah" is written in the frank but lyrical confessional style that Adichie brings to her talks. A book about the intersection of race, identity and immigration, "Americanah" walks the thin line between being pedantic and confessional. We gain intimate access into the inner world of Ifemelu, the novel’s protagonist, whose personal experiences illuminate larger narratives of race perception, the use of language and cultural negotiation.
“[The summer reading] is meant to intellectually stimulate them and give them a topic of conversation to be able to jump into right away. 'Americanah' achieved this goal very well as it brought many issues that are happening in our everyday lives,” said junior Mansoor Safi, who served as a Head FAC this year.
The novel is unabashedly explanatory in tone and chock full of aphoristic observations of absurd social behaviors examined from the detached perspective of the outsider. Although highly individualistic in nature, "Americanah" is global in scope. "This is how the world works," Ifemelu (in many ways Adichie's literary avatar) seems to be saying, although the linguistic and cultural subtleties of such a third culture existence may often elude the casual observer. Partly because of its expansive range of themes, "Americanah" was chosen as the summer reading book for the Class of 2018.
“Having spent a good portion of my childhood in Nigeria and then immigrating into the U.S, the book resonated with me because trying to understand my identity in a new culture was definitely something that I experienced,” said sophomore Okechi Boms, a FAC who led freshmen in group discussions about the book.
Although Boms tells a personal story, his experiences nevertheless resonate with people everywhere and anywhere.
“I do think that 'Americanah' transcends the experiences of just Nigerians or Africans,” Boms added. “It relates to anyone who has had to deal with major changes in his or her life.”
Adichie will be speaking at Duke’s Baldwin Auditorium this Friday, Sep. 5 at 7 p.m.
The previous version of this article stated that "Americanah" was Chimamanda Adichie's second novel rather than her third. The article has been edited to reflect this. The Chronicle regrets the error.