Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born September 15, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. She was raised in Nsukka near the University of Nigeria. Her father, James Nwoye Adichie, was a professor of statistics and later became the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University. Her mother, Ifeoma Aidichie, became the first female registrar at the University. Adichie is the fifth child in a family of six children. She is of Igbo descent and her ancestral home is in Abba.
Adichie was an A student who often butted heads with her teachers. Despite her reputation, she received several academic awards. Adichie enrolled in medical school at the behest of her father. She soon dropped out to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. When she was 19, she left Nigeria on a scholarship to Drexel University in Philadelphia. She studied communication at Drexel and earned a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. She graduated summa cum laude in 2001. Later that year, she began MFA courses in literature at Johns Hopkins University.
Adichie credits Chinua Achebe, Igbo author of Nigerian masterwork Things Fall Apart, with her literary success. She once lived in Achebe’s house and believes his halo surrounded her. After reading his book at 10 years old, she realized that people who looked like her could exist in books. Her desire to write was sparked by his work.
In 2003, Purple Hibiscus was published to wide acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. She was awarded with the Orange Prize in 2007 for her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, about the Biafran War. In 2008, she received a MacArthur Fellowship. A collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, was published in 2009.
Adichie tries to combat the image of Africans as portrayed by Western media. Choosing to write first from her experience as an affluent and educated Nigerian, she was often criticized for shying away from the “real” Africa. But she struggled to write characters who were not “starving, or begin bullied by [Zimbabwean dictator] Mugabe, or dying of AIDS.” As reflected in her writing voice, Adichie is a staunch feminist and uses her work as a way to work through the misogyny and condescension she has faced as an African woman in the global literary community.
She splits her time between the Unites States and Nigeria, married to a Maryland-based doctor. Her next novel will chronicle the Nigerian immigrant experience in America.