NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The highly acclaimed, provocative essay on feminism and sexual politics—from the award-winning author of Americanah
In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
A personal essay adapted from the writer''s TEDx talk of the same name. Adichie, celebrated author of the acclaimed Americanah (Knopf, 2013), offers a more inclusive definition of feminism, one that strives to highlight and embrace a wide range of people and experiences. Drawing on anecdotes from her adolescence and adult life, Adichie attempts to strike down stereotypes and unpack the baggage usually associated with the term. She argues that an emphasis on feminism is necessary because to focus only on the general "human rights" is "to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded." Her focus on women of color is also an aspect of the movement that hasn''t always been given its due, and Adichie works in her own experience and life as a feminist within a more conservative Nigerian culture in an organic and eye-opening way. She also points to examples in Nigeria that are unfortunately universal: a young woman who is gang-raped at a university and is then vilified and blamed for the crime, which, unfortunately, happens often in the United States. Injustices such as these, she posits, are reasons enough to be angry and outspoken. The humorous and insightful tone will engage teens and give them an accessible entry point into gender studies. This title would also work well as a discussion starter in debate and speech classes. VERDICT An eloquent, stirring must-read for budding and reluctant feminists.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
“Nuanced and rousing.” —
“Adichie is so smart about so many things.” —
San Francisco Chronicle
"An enchanting plea by the award-winning Nigerian novelist to channel anger about gender inequality into positive change." —
"A call to action, for all people in the world, to undo the gender hierarchy." —
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including
The New Yorker,
The New York Times,
The O. Henry Prize Stories,
Financial Times, and
Zoetrope: All-Story. She is the author of the novels
Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award;
Half of a Yellow Sun, which was the recipient of the Women’s Prize for Fiction “Winner of Winners” award;
Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award; the story collection
The Thing Around Your Neck; and the essays
We Should All Be Feminists and
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, both national bestsellers. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
This is a modified version of a talk I delivered in December 2012 at TEDxEuston, a yearly conference focused on Africa. Speakers from diverse fields deliver concise talks aimed at challenging and inspiring Africans and friends of Africa. I had spoken at a different TED conference a few years before, giving a talk titled ‘The Danger of the Single Story’ about how stereotypes limit and shape our thinking, especially about Africa. It seems to me that the word feminist, and the idea of feminism itself, is also limited by stereotypes. When my brother Chuks and best friend Ike, both co-organizers of the TEDxEuston conference, insisted that I speak, I could not say no. I decided to speak about feminism because it is something I feel strongly about. I suspected that it might not be a very popular subject, but I hoped to start a necessary conversation. And so that evening as I stood onstage, I felt as though I was in the presence of family – a kind and attentive audience, but one that might resist the subject of my talk. At the end, their standing ovation gave me hope.
WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS
Okoloma was one of my greatest childhood friends. He lived on my street and looked after me like a big brother: if I liked a boy, I would ask Okoloma’s opinion. Okoloma was funny and intelligent and wore cowboy boots that were pointy at the tips. In December 2005, in a plane crash in southern Nigeria, Okoloma died. It is still hard for me to put into words how I felt. Okoloma was a person I could argue with, laugh with and truly talk to. He was also the first person to call me a feminist.
I was about fourteen. We were in his house, arguing, both of us bristling with half- baked knowledge from the books we had read. I don’t remember what this particular argument was about. But I remember that as I argued and argued, Okoloma looked at me and said, ‘You know, you’re a feminist.’
It was not a compliment. I could tell from his tone – the same tone with which a person would say, ‘You’re a supporter of terrorism.’
I did not know exactly what this word feminist meant. And I did not want Okoloma to know that I didn’t know. So I brushed it aside and continued to argue. The first thing I planned to do when I got home was look up the word in the dictionary.
Now fast-forward to some years later. In 2003, I wrote a novel called
Purple Hibiscus, about a man who, among other things, beats his wife, and whose story doesn’t end too well. While I was promoting the novel in Nigeria, a journalist, a nice, well-meaning man, told me he wanted to advise me. (Nigerians, as you might know, are very quick to give unsolicited
He told me that people were saying my novel was feminist, and his advice to me – he was shaking his head sadly as he spoke – was that I should never call myself a feminist, since feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands.
So I decided to call myself a Happy Feminist.