Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction and short story writer sets the stage for African literature and young women everywhere. She is both a prominent feminist and one of the most prominent authors of African Literature, as reported by Vogue and The Times Literary Supplement.

Ten Facts About Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. Adichie was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie.
  2. Adichie’s father, who is now retired, worked at the University of Nigeria, located in Nsukka. He was Nigeria’s first professor of statistics, and later became Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University. Her mother was the first female registrar at the same institution.
  3. At the age of nineteen, Adichie left for the United States. She received a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University.
  4. Adichie completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, as reported by Harvard.
  5. During her senior year at Eastern, Adichie started working on her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was released in October 2003. The book has received wide critical acclaim; according to Adichie’s personal site, it was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.
  6. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in August 2006 in the United Kingdom and in September 2006 in the United States.
  7. Adichie’s third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of short stories.
  8. Her latest Novel Americanhah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named on of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.
  9. Adichie’s 2009 TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” has had more than eight million views.
  10. Reported in Vogue, Adichie loves teaching, and claims, “I want to make it valid, to dream about books and writing. Because in Nigeria it’s very hard; people will say to you, what do you mean, ‘writing’? Nigerians are a very, very practical people. And while I admire practicality, I feel we need to make a space for dreaminess.”

Megan Hadley

Photo: Flickr

With each May comes college graduation, where young women across the United States will enter the period of their lives in which they must begin to consider the future.  These women will begin to marry, attain their first real jobs, move away from their families and pursue further education.  During this time of transition, many will encounter the realities of gender inequality: reconciling children and career, lower pay, pressure to marry and harassment and discrimination at the workplace.

Here are a few modern feminists to look to for guidance:

1.  Sarojini Sahoo – India

Throughout her writings, Dr. Sahoo discusses the idea of feminism as independent of male hegemony.  Instead, she advocates for financial liberation and the rejection of double standards in human sexuality.  Sahoo, who has a master’s and a doctorate in Oriya Literature as well as a law degree, writes with an undeniable boldness in describing the sexual nature of her characters and addressing the fears of rape and social condemnation.  She was named one of the 25 Most Exceptional Women of India by Kindle Magazine, and certainly not without reason.

2. Leila Ahmed – Egypt

The rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt brought great change to Dr. Ahmed’s young life. She became the first professor of Women’s Studies in Religion at Harvard, where she wrote Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate.  The book, considered the most comprehensive of its kind, examines the gender stereotypes both within and outside her religion.  Ahmed has shared her opposition to Western assumptions about the role of women in Arab society–an issue any feminist would do well to ponder.

3. Dilma Rousseff – Brazil

Few presidents have a history with an underground resistance against military dictatorship, but even fewer are also women.  In 1970, Dilma Rousseff spent three years in a prison in which she was tortured.  She led the Board of Petrobras before winning the presidential election in October 2010.  Since taking office, Rousseff has fought for the reduction of poverty, the improvement of national education and the empowerment of women.

4. Joyce Hilda Banda – Malawi

Serving as the first female president of Malawi – a conservative and male-dominated country – is an accomplishment many said Banda would never achieve.  The stubborn Banda refused to resign after taking office upon the sudden death of her successor. In the same manner she refused to stay with an abusive husband or apologize to Madonna.  Before having been constitutionally elected vice president, she founded the National Association of Business Women and the Joyce Banda Foundation to help educate children.  The Hunger Project awarded her the 1997 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger.  As president, she has decriminalized homosexuality, sold the presidential jet and 60 government limousines and refused to allow the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to enter Malawi as part of an African Union Summit.

Although these women represent only a fraction of the world’s women worthy of admiration, their work can serve to inspire.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: Sarojini Sahoo, About, University of Minnesota, BBC, LA Times, Forbes, Independent
Sources: The Guardian