Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’01

“Amanda” Adiche shares her stories of the Nigeria of her childhood with the world through her talents as a novelist and writer of short stories and nonfiction.

Edmund Chibeau, professor of communication, knew he was in for something special when Nigerian-born Chimamanda “Amanda” Ngozi Adichie ‘01 enrolled in his History and Criticism of Radio and Television class in fall 2000. “Amanda showed me some of her short stories,” Chibeau says, “and I knew she had a great talent for writing.”
Adichie’s storytelling was so powerful that Chibeau asked her to write some articles for the Campus Lantern and then made the articles required reading for his class. Adichie, who says she’s been writing ever since she could spell, also agreed to write poetry in Igbo, her native dialect, for Chibeau’s All Ears Radio Theater, a live radio show that grew out of his scriptwriting class.

“Dr. Chibeau was a wonderful teacher and friend, and a source of incredible support. He was encouraging from the beginning and started to keep drafts of short stories I gave him to read. He had a keen sense of a large, complex world outside the tiny confines of the college campus, which I appreciated. And he was so encouraging. I remember when I wrote a piece in the school paper and he asked the class to read it and underline the sentence that summarized my point. For me, that was the most spectacular evidence of faith in my writing. And I had enormous admiration for the brilliant Dr. Jahandarie and the particular, detailed way he handled his class.”

After graduating from Eastern, Adichie went on to earn a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2003 and another master’s in African Studies from Yale in 2008. Also in 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant. In 2011-12, she had a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In October 2003, her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published by Algonquin Books in association with Workman Press. One reviewer called it “a monumental literary achievement and a prayer for Nigeria,” while the London Times deemed it “the best debut novel since Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.” In 2006, her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, was published to international acclaim. She has also published a short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, and short nonfiction pieces, chiefly about Nigeria as well. Her work has appeared in Zoetrope All-Story, Prism International, Wasafiri, Calyx Journal, Iowa Review, Other Voices, and the anthology Proverbs for the People. Her short story “Ceiling” is included in the anthology The Best American Short Stories of 2011. Adichie is married and divides her time between her native Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops, and the United States.