Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on September 15, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. She was raised in Nsukka near the University of Nigeria. Her father, James Nwoye Adichie, was a professor of statistics and later became the deputy vice-chancellor of the University. Her mother, Ifeoma Aidichie, became the first female registrar at the University. Adichie is the fifth child in a family of six children. She is of Igbo descent and her ancestral home is in Abba.
Adichie was an A student who often butted heads with her teachers. Despite her reputation, she received several academic awards. Adichie enrolled in medical school at the behest of her father. She soon dropped out to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. When she was 19, she left Nigeria on a scholarship to Drexel University in Philadelphia. She studied communication at Drexel and earned a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. She graduated summa cum laude in 2001. Later that year, she began MFA courses in literature at Johns Hopkins University.
Adichie credits Chinua Achebe, Igbo author of Nigerian masterwork Things Fall Apart, with her literary success. She once lived in Achebe’s house and believes his halo surrounded her. After reading his book at 10 years old, she realized that people who looked like her could exist in books. Her desire to write was sparked by his work.
In 2003, Purple Hibiscus was published to wide acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. She was awarded with the Orange Prize in 2007 for her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, about the Biafran War. In 2008, she received a MacArthur Fellowship. A collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, was published in 2009.
Adichie tries to combat the image of Africans as portrayed by Western media. Choosing to write first from her experience as an affluent and educated Nigerian, she was often criticized for shying away from the “real” Africa. But she struggled to write characters who were not “starving, or begin bullied by [Zimbabwean dictator] Mugabe, or dying of AIDS.” As reflected in her writing voice, Adichie is a staunch feminist and uses her work as a way to work through the misogyny and condescension she has faced as an African woman in the global literary community.
She splits her time between the Unites States and Nigeria, married to a Maryland-based doctor. Her next novel will chronicle the Nigerian immigrant experience in America.
Chimamanda Adichie is a young writer who illuminates the complexities of human experience in works inspired by events in her native Nigeria. Adichie explores the intersection of the personal and the public by placing the intimate details of the lives of her characters within the larger social and political forces in contemporary Nigeria. Dividing her time over the last decade between the United States and Nigeria, she is widely appreciated for her stark yet balanced depiction of events in the post-colonial era. In her most recent novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Adichie unflinchingly portrays the horror and destruction of the civil war following the establishment of the Republic of Biafra. Using multiple narrative voices, a precise movement back and forth in time, and prose that is at once witty and empathetic, she immerses the reader in the psyches of her characters, whose loyalties to each other and their ideals are tested as their world gradually falls apart. In humanizing the Biafran tragedy, Adichie’s novel has enriched conversation about the war within Nigeria while also offering insight into the circumstances that lead to ethnic conflict. A writer of great promise, Adichie’s powerful rendering of the Nigerian experience is enlightening audiences both in her homeland and around the world.
Chimamanda Adichie received a B.A. (2001) from Eastern Connecticut State University, an M.A. (2003) from Johns Hopkins University, and an M.A. (2008) from Yale University. Her additional works include the novel Purple Hibiscus (2003) and short stories that have appeared in such publications as the New Yorker, Granta, and the Virginia Quarterly Review.