Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Books

Instructor: Ian Matthews

Ian teaches college writing and has a Master's in Writing and Publishing

MacArthur Genius Grant winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie hasn't been writing for very long--only about 15 years. But in that comparatively short time, she's made a huge impact on the world of literature. Let's take a look at the books of this inspiring figure in contemporary African literature.

Purple Hibiscus

Published in 2003, Purple Hibiscus is Adichie's first novel. The narrative takes place in Nigeria during a time of political upheaval and revolution. Its narrator, fifteen-year-old Kambili Achike, lives on a compound with her family. Her father, Eugene, is wealthy, religious, and viciously cruel man, beating and tormenting Kambili, her mother Beatrice, and her brother Jaja.

When a coup threatens the stability of their society, Kambili, her mother and brother are sent to live with Kambili's aunt Ifeoma, a more liberal university professor. Their lives blossom outside the influence of Eugene's violence. Kambili eventually falls in love with a priest.

Within the story, Beatrice poisons Eugene, Jaja takes the fall and is sent to prison, and Ifeoma moves to America with her children. The novel ends three years later, with Kambili and Beatrice visiting Jaja in prison; he's about to be released, and Kambili plans on taking him to America, where they will plant orange trees and purple hibiscus.

Purple Hibiscus won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in 2005, and was on the shortlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004, an annual prize for the best novel by a woman.

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie's second novel, is also set in Nigeria. This book takes place during the Nigerian Civil War, between 1967 and 1970, and is named after the nation of Biafra, which split from Nigeria during that war. Yellow Sun explores the impact of the Civil War by jumping between the narratives of three people: Ugwu, a village boy and servant; Olanna, a strikingly beautiful student; and Richard, a writer from England who is in Nigeria to research tribal art.

By jumping between characters and time periods, Yellow Sun is able to examine the beginnings of the conflict that led to the Nigerian Civil War and the ways that the conflict disrupted everyday people's lives. Characters are forced from their homes and into refugee camps, remote villages, and even behind enemy lines.

Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Award in 2007, and was adapted into a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, of 12 Years a Slave fame, in 2013. The following year, Yellow Sun was published, Adichie was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the MacArthur Genius Grant, for her innovative writing.

The Thing Around Your Neck

The Thing Around Your Neck, published in 2009, is a short story collection. Adichie mostly makes it up of previously published short stories. The collection is named after one of the stories that appears inside; 'The Thing Around Your Neck' (the story) is about a young Nigerian girl who obtains an American visa and ends up working as a waitress in Connecticut after her uncle molests her.

Like Adichie's other works, The Thing Around Your Neck focuses on people from Africa - some have emigrated to the United States or other countries, and some still live in their home countries. Also, like Adichie's other works, these stories examine what happens when African culture collides with western culture.

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