Chimamanda Adichie: The Wise Young Writer


Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks at a library
Howard County Library, via Flickr

Are stories important to you? Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma look at the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

"Stories matter. Many stories matter.”

Voice 1 

These are the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She spoke them in a speech about the importance of having many different stories. She believes that some stories can hurt people. But she also believes that stories can heal, encourage and give people worth. Adichie is a young creative writer. She is only 36 years old. But her stories are full of history and wisdom. Today's Spotlight is on Chimamanda Adichie.

Voice 2 

Adichie was born in the country of Nigeria. Her parents worked at a university in the town of Nsukka. They encouraged young Adichie to read. However, most of the stories Adichie read were about British characters. She knew very little about British culture - only what she had learned from books. At a young age, Adichie began writing her own stories. In these stories, her characters had blue eyes - like the children in the British books. They ate food she had never tasted. They played in the snow, which she had never seen. Adichie wrote stories like the British stories she read. She did not think that Africans could be characters in books. But when she was 10 years old, she read a book called Things Fall Apart. Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe wrote this famous book. You may have heard another Spotlight program about Chinua Achebe. Achebe’s story changed Adichie’s writing forever. It helped Adichie see that literature could be about people like her!

Voice 1 

Adichie has enjoyed much success in writing. She has published many poems and short stories. She published her first book length story in 2003. This novel is called Purple Hibiscus. Literature experts praised this story. Her second novel is called Half a Yellow Sun. It won the Orange Prize for Fiction. And in 2014, filmmakers released Half a Yellow Sun as a major international film.

Voice 2 

Adichie believes that stories matter. And that storytelling has power. But she believes that this power can be both good and bad. That is why she thinks it is important to tell many different stories about people. In a speech, she warned about the danger of telling only a single story about a group of people. When Adichie came to the United States from Nigeria, she met many people who only knew a single story about Africa. When they met her, they were surprised that she was not poor or that she did not come from a country at war. They only knew one story about Africa. And this made them think all of Africa was like the story they knew. Adichie said,

Voice 3 

"The result of a single story is this: It robs people of a sense of worth and honour. A single story makes it difficult to recognize our equal humanity. It shows how we are different instead of how we are similar."

Voice 1

In her stories, Adichie writes about all different kinds of characters from different places in life. Her characters are not stereotypes. They are not single or simple representations of people. By telling complex stories, Adichie is able to discuss the deeper issues of human life.

Voice 2 

In her short story "Tomorrow is Too Far," Adichie explores the effects of a common cultural value - that sons are more important than daughters. The main character of this story is a young Nigerian girl. The reader learns that the girl’s grandmother always treated the girl’s brother better than the girl. But Adichie does not just show how the girl is a victim. She also shows how this unequal treatment affects the girl. The young girl wants to hurt her brother. Finally, she accidently kills him. This story shows the personal damage that can happen when people treat boys as the most important. But it does not make the daughter into the hero. Instead, the story shows how unequal treatment can produce hatred for all humans - male and female. And although the story looks at hate, it also shows what love can look like.

Voice 1 

Adichie also believes in the importance of remembering the past. Her stories often look at the past, into forgotten stories. She desires to show her readers that knowing the past can help them. It can help them better understand who they are now, in the present. For this reason, Adichie has always loved stories of the past. She told the Washington Post,

Voice 3 

"Every family has a child who is interested in the story of who they are. I am that child."

Voice 2 

Adichie's novel Half a Yellow Sun looks at Nigeria's past. It is a part that she says people do not like to talk about: the Biafran War. The Biafran War was a time in Nigeria's history when the Eastern part of the country tried to become an independent country. This happened before Adichie was born. Adichie had to do a lot of research to write the book. And she had to ask questions that she had never asked before. But she feels that it is important for Nigerians to discuss it. She told the Washington Post that she felt Nigerians had forgotten or avoided their past. But she hopes her book will change that. She said,

Voice 3 

"I am just hoping that people will start to talk about it."

Voice 1 

In her short story "The Headstrong Historian," Adichie goes even further back into the past. She writes about the time when European powers began to take possession of Africa. She looks at why some people may have accepted the rule of foreigners. She also writes about the change from traditional African religions to Christianity. She hopes this story will help Europeans and Africans better understand who they are today by learning from the story of their past.

Voice 2

In her stories, Adichie covers many ideas and issues. She opens our eyes to new situations. She explores human nature. And she warns the reader about the danger of forgetting. Because she is so young, Adichie’s work surprises many people. Many people believe her writing has wisdom greater than her years. Before one of Adichie’s speeches, writer Chinua Achebe spoke about her. He said,

Voice 4 

"We do not usually believe that beginners can be so wise. But here is a new writer who has the gift of ancient storytellers."

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Chimamanda Adichie: The Wise Young Writer.’

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you like stories? Is it easy for you to find books and movies about people who are similar to you?

Comments


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oleksandrk
said on October 06, 2014

Very nice story about wise storyteller. :-) Thanks spotlight!