9 Wise Quotes From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Author Of “Half of a Yellow Sun”

Ten years ago, Nigerian feminist novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun” was published. The story of two upper-middle-class sisters - Olanna and Kainene - and their partners, left-wing academic Odenigbo and writer and anthropologist Richard, as well as 'house boy' Ugwu, begins by drawing you deep into their lives. Adichie’s are complex characters with issues, passions and lots to learn about the world and each other. As they grow, so too does the conflict within Nigeria which soon leads to the Biafran War. Using meticulous research into the real life conflict which led to over three million civilian deaths, including that of Adichie’s grandfathers, the writer set out to put “history on a human scale”. Adichie, who has also written “Americanah" and “Purple Hibiscus” as well as several short-stories and essays, has won multiple awards for her work and a sample of her TED Talk, We Should All Be Feminists, appears on Beyoncé’s 2014 song "***Flawless."

To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of her breakthrough novel, the Southbank Centre hosted Adichie as part of its Festival of Love to discuss Love and War. The talk covered the literary devices of her novel, the research methods used to make her historical accounts authentic and the inevitable destinies of her characters. Afterwards, the lively Q+A sparked conversations on the broader themes of gender, race, and the identity politics of Africans and their diasporas - topics Adichie addresses in her novels.

Here are some of the most inspiring things Adichie had to say about women:

On her daughter: “I want my daughter to live in a world where people can move through borders as easily as money!”

On choice: “The other thing about us Nigerian African black women is that we feel we have to be limited in our choices.”

On feminism: “A feminist is who and what I am; it’s not a cloak that I put on on certain days and take off on certain days. I just did not get the memo that men and women were not equal. I am a daughter, a sister, a mother, wife; those things and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive at all.”

On Olanna, one of the main characters in “Half of a Yellow Sun”: “Olanna’s trajectory was inspired by the fact I was so struck by when I was researching - how rarely women’s stories were centred in narratives about that period”

On finding normality during conflict: “I was struck when I was talking to my father, as well as some other people who’d lived through the war, how they went to weddings in the middle of a war. And I think that idea that people find ways to hold on to things that make them human. And they did, I don’t know how they found ways but they just did, because that’s what human beings do. In the middle of terrible war, some women are just dreaming for face cream. I was hearing about these women that were just so eager to get a bit of moisturiser for their faces and I remember thinking - then they would go and stand in line to get dried egg yolk for their children and dreaming about moisturiser.”

On motherhood - “It’s changed everything, starting with the number of hours of sleep I get”

“Having children often necessarily means that your work suffers, and that’s because our society doesn’t make it possible for our work not to suffer. But we were helping to make sure that the human species doesn’t die out!”

On Beyoncé using her writing on feminism in her song: “I want a feminist world. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal. I just think we should do everything we possibly can. And having young people talk about feminism, even having young people say that word ‘feminist’ - who would never have said it ordinarily - I think is a good thing. Is it ideal and perfect, no. But it’s part of the journey, I think.”

On sex: “A lot of my work is infused with my belief about gender, I think it's so important that female sexuality is seen as a thing that is real and complex and is not at all linked with shame. This is true in every part of the world, it manifests differently but true everywhere, there is always an element of shame in terms of female sexuality and I think it’s a sense in which for me, in my writing, I don’t want to write fantasies so I don’t want pretend that this is not true, but I also want to complicate it, I want to poke at it and try to make female sexuality the human, flawed, beautiful, sensual thing that it is.”

NEXT: Not for African-American Women »

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