The New Yorker’s profile of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

She had always hated the punitive orthodoxies of the Western left—the way that people who didn’t understand certain protocols because they came from a different background could find themselves banished while barely comprehending what they’d done wrong. Gender pronouns, for instance. In Nigeria, anyone who believes that people of minority sexualities should not be jailed is already a progressive, so we don’t have the mental space for fighting about pronouns.

Before Imasuen read the book, he had thought that middle-class Nigerian lives like his were too boring and marginal to write about. He worried about his readers losing interest—when he was writing his first manuscript, he thought there had to be a spaceship, or a flashback in time, and the whole thing had to be constantly cutting back and forth, like a movie trailer. “Purple Hibiscus” was a revelation: I knew those characters.

The book would be, as Myhre put it, “post-post-colonial”: she as an African would write about America with the same detached authority with which Westerners wrote about Africa.

Later, when she felt eyes constantly upon her, she started to have an aversion to talking about what she was working on, or even her past work. She began to worry that any answer she came up with would be pretentious and untrue. The more she wrote, the less sure she became. Each post scraped off yet one more scale of self until she felt naked and false.

About Raghu Mahajan

Postdoctoral research fellow in theoretical physics, studying quantum gravity.
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