Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Biography


Nigerian-American author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's critically acclaimed novels examine the postcolonial experience of Nigerians, tackling questions of identity, ethnicity, and power through the lives of vivid, unforgettable characters contending with changing political and economic landscapes. Adichie was born on September 15, 1977, into an Igbo family in Enugu, a city in eastern Nigeria that was once the capital of the Republic of Biafra. Two of her grandfathers died in the war of independence that raged in eastern Nigeria from 1967–70; many of her relatives survived the war with stories to tell. The fifth of six children, Adichie grew up in the university town of Nsukka. Both her parents were university professionals who made history at their jobs: her mother was the university's first female registrar and her father the first statistics professor in Nigeria. As a child, Adichie was captivated by Igbo writer Chinua Achebe's acclaimed novel Things Fall Apart, which addresses colonial life in Nigeria.

Adichie attended secondary school at the university's school for children of staff, where she was a high-achieving student. After graduating she initially attended the University of Nigeria where she studied medicine and pharmacy. She left Nigeria for the United States at age 19. At Philadelphia's Drexel University she spent two years studying communication on a scholarship before completing a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University in 2001. She went on to receive a master's degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Much of Adichie's work explores life in postcolonial Nigeria, and specifically the Biafran war. Her play For Love of Biafra, published in Nigeria in 1998, is an early examination of the war. Adichie began writing her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, while finishing her bachelor's degree. The book is set in Enugu, where Adichie was born, and Nsukka, where she grew up. It examines coming of age and the tension between Western and indigenous culture against a backdrop of political and economic turmoil. The critically acclaimed novel, which won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book, was released in 2003. Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie's second novel, was published in 2006 and received several awards, including the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. A film adaptation was released in 2013.

Adichie spent 2005–06 at Princeton University as a Hodder Fellow. The Fellowship is awarded "to artists and writers of exceptional promise to pursue independent projects at Princeton University." In 2008 Yale University awarded Adichie a master's degree in African studies. During 2011–12 Adichie finished her third novel, Americanah, as a Radcliffe fellow at Harvard University. Americanah is the story of two young Nigerians who leave the country for the West to escape political conditions in their home country. It received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2013 and was named one of the year's 10 best books by the New York Times.

Adichie currently divides her time between Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops, and the United States. Adichie is married and has one daughter.

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