Her heroines are epic: saturnine, brooding, melancholy, passive aggressive, intensely cerebral women who quietly bear the pressure they're under, until the day they snap and walk away from what is supposedly every Nigerian woman's dream: the good but uniquely flawed man, the dream job/opportunity that eats away at your soul, the chance to live or stay in America but betray yourself.
“We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. [She] knows what is at stake, and what to do about it. She is fearless.”
He is spot on. It must be so fulfilling for Adichie to have someone so worthyunderstand her work so well. Her poise – one interviewer described her as ‘contained’- is obvious and her sense of self is empowering.
It would be Adichie's poster I would have on my wall and it would be her concerts I would go to and it would be her CDs I would know all the words too. I love to see genius; that honest, unbridled, natural and seemingly effortless ability, humanity and humility certain great people have. That’s why I admire President Barack Obama, and Michael Jackson, and Beyonce. So imagine my joy when that person is a female Nigerian young enough to be my contemporary, with similar experiences of traversing both the Western and African continents? I positively reverberated with excitement when I learnt more about her.
Thankfully my natural hair is easy to comb out, but the early stages of having a boyish short cut was challenging until it grew long enough to style, although sadly it never grew as long as it once was. Now in Nigeria I get compliments by women who wish they could ‘go natural’ but can’t because of their receding hairline resulting from too many tight braids or because their natural hair is too tough. Now I love my hair; it’s cheaper to manage and takes little time to do up in the morning. It’s how God created it and its texture is just the way He wanted it to be. Fulani women are usually less likely than other Nigerian women to wear weaves anyway, because their hair is usually longer and softer with finer curls, and also because they mostly cover it up and are not under pressure to show it off in different styles. This in itself is a shame, i.e. the women with the loveliest hair are the ones that cover it up.
“As you can see, I have natural, negro hair, free from relaxers and things... From when I was three years old I already had the idea that straight hair was beautiful and my hair was ugly. But then when I went to America, I suddenly found out I was Black! Suddenly I started thinking, why do I want my hair to look like a white girls’ hair? This is absurd.”Then she said:
"My hair is in tiny cornrows; I have a big ponytail on the top of my head. I quite like it. It is natural. I am a bit of a fundamentalist when it comes to black women's hair. Hair is hair – yet also it's about larger questions: self-acceptance, insecurity and what the world tells you is beautiful. For many black women, the idea of wearing their hair naturally is unbearable."In Americanah, Adichie describes her main character Ifemelu getting her hair relaxed:
“She left the salon almost mournfully; while the hairdresser had flat-ironed the ends, the smell of burning, of something organic dying which should not have died, had made her feel a sense of loss.”I was also happy to hear that Adichie is now married to a fellow Igbo doctor based in America. I’m a traditionalist, so no matter how great a woman’s achievements are and no matter how much I admire them, I always feel sad for them if they are unmarried and childless. Like Condoleeza Rice, the former US Secretary of state who got her PhD aged 26, is an accomplished pianist and speaks English, Russian, French, Spanish and German fluently, but is childless and single. Or Oprah Winfrey, who I adore and was bereaved when her show ended, and loved her even more after watching a documentary about the OWLAG school for girls she opened in South Africa. Yet I feel she is incomplete for never having married or raised her own kids. Although in her case (and probably Rice’s too) she might not have achieved so much if she were a housewife. But at least she'll be a woman in the full sense of the word.
But marriage seems to have added nothing to Adichie: she was whole since writing Half of a Yellow Sun. After reading her first novel Purple Hibiscus, I could see the writer emerging, but by Yellow Sun Adichie had arrived. And she remains in a state of ‘arrival’ and will continue to be a fully fledged, composed and confident writer.
Adichie's new book: Americanah
“I like America but it’s not mine and it never will be. I don’t really have a life there. I travel and I speak and I sit in my study trying to write, but in Nigeria I have a life. I go out, I have friends, I feel emotionally invested in what’s happening.”