Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the World of African Literature


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the best-selling Nigerian author, wants American readers to know that African writers don’t just write about Africa’s problems. “When we talk about the developing world, there’s this idea that everybody should be fighting for the poor,” she says. Though it might seem obvious to point out, she adds, “people are diverse, and there are different things that are going on with them.”


She calls it the “danger of a single story”—the idea that people living in certain areas of the world all have one kind of experience. Ms. Adichie hopes to show audiences Africa’s range of stories as the co-curator of this year’s PEN World Voices Festival. For the first time, the weeklong literature event, which starts Monday in New York, will have a regional focus. Along with other book-related programs, authors from Africa and its diaspora will speak about topics like how the West misunderstands African culture and the state of Africa’s poetry scene.

Ms. Adichie, 37, has spent her adult life traveling between the U.S. and Nigeria. She first rose to prominence in 2003 with the publication of her first book, “Purple Hibiscus,” a coming-of-age novel set in postcolonial Nigeria. She went on to write two more critically-acclaimed novels, “Half of a Yellow Sun” (2006) and “Americanah” (2013), as well as a collection of short stories. She won a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2008.

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