A Novel About Love, Hair, and Race
Born in Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie RI ’12 is a frequent flier between Lagos, London, and the United States—all settings portrayed in her forthcoming novel, Americanah. “It’s a half-mocking expression for Nigerians who have become Americanized,” she says of the title. “The novel is a love story, but it’s also about hair, and race.”
Adichie’s own relationship with America is “a very complicated affection,” she says. “America represents possibility, but Nigeria is really home. My heart is locked up in a house in Abba, the town where my grandfather grew up.” She is the author of two earlier novels, Purple Hibiscus (Algonquin Books, 2003), which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and Half a Yellow Sun (Knopf, 2006), which won the Orange Prize. For the short-story collection The Thing Around Your Neck (Knopf, 2009), Adichie was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008.
“I feel ridiculously lucky to have the freedom to write and travel right now,” she says. “There’s this wonderful ability to see a place more clearly when you’re away from it.” Adichie, the Perrin Moorhead Grayson and Bruns Grayson Fellow and Radcliffe-African Studies Fellow at Radcliffe, plans to finish her novel and see more of sub-Saharan Africa after leaving the Institute. “I became African in the United States,” she says, “although I never thought of myself that way.”
Intrigued by the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, Adichie is interested in the advantages and difficulties of each. “In some instances I find that fiction is limiting—there’s always the burden that it needs to seem to be true,” she says. “On the other hand, I find that memoir can be dishonest. I think my next book might be somewhere between the two.”
Julia Hanna is associate editor of the Harvard Business School Bulletin.