Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Biography

A native of Abba in Njikoka LGA of Anambra State, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie. While the family’s ancestral hometown is Abba in Anambra State, Chimamanda grew up in Nsukka, in the house formerly occupied by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. Chimamanda’s father (now late), worked at the University of Nigeria, located in Nsukka. He was Nigeria’s first professor of statistics, and later became Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University. Her mother was the first female registrar at the same institution.

Chimamanda completed her secondary education at the University’s school, receiving several academic prizes. She went on to study medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the University’s Catholic medical students.

At the age of nineteen, Chimamanda left for the United States. She gained a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she also wrote articles for the university journal, the Campus Lantern. While in Connecticut, she stayed with her sister Ijeoma, who runs a medical practice close the university.

Chimamanda graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001, and then completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

It was during her senior year at Eastern Connecticut that she started working on her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was released in October 2003. The book has received wide critical acclaim: it was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005).

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (also the title of one of her short stories), is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in August 2006 in the United Kingdom and in September 2006 in the United States. Like Purple Hibiscus, it has also been released in Nigeria.

Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year, and earned an MA in African Studies from Yale University in 2008; her thesis was entitled ‘The Myth of “Culture”: Sketching the History of Igbo Women in Precolonial and Colonial Nigeria’. In 2011-2012, she was awarded a fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, which allowed her to finalize her third novel, Americanah. The book was released to great critical acclaim in 2013.

Chimamanda is married and has a daughter. She divides her time between Nigeria—where she regularly teaches writing workshops—and the United States.

©Daria Tunca

According to a comprehensive collection put up by Daria Tunca (2021), the legendary Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as at 2021, has the following awards and nominations to her name:

Literary Awards

BBC Short Story Competition 2002 joint winner, for ‘That Harmattan Morning’

O. Henry Prize 2003, for ‘The American Embassy’

David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002/2003 (PEN Center Award), for ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award 2004 (Best Debut Fiction Category), for Purple Hibiscus

Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2005: Best First Book (Africa), for Purple Hibiscus

Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2005: Best First Book (overall), for Purple Hibiscus

Anisfield-Wolf Book Award 2007 (fiction category), for Half of a Yellow Sun (joint winner with Martha Collins, for Blue Front)

PEN ‘Beyond Margins’ Award 2007, for Half of a Yellow Sun (joint winner with Ernest Hardy for his essay collection Blood Beats, Vol. 1, Harryette Mullen for her poetry anthology, Recyclopedia, and Alberto Ríos for his poetry collection, Theater of Night)

Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007, for Half of a Yellow Sun

2008 MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant (along with 24 other winners)

2009 International Nonino Prize

2013 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize (fiction category), for Americanah

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award 2013 (fiction category), for Americanah

Winner of the ‘Best of the Best’ of the second decade of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction), 2015, for Half of a Yellow Sun

Mary McCarthy Award, Bard College, USA, 2017

Winner of ‘Le Grand Prix de l’héroïne Madame Figaro’ 2017, for the French translation of Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Chère Ijeawele, ou un manifeste pour une éducation féministe)

Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, 2018

PEN Pinter Prize, 2018

Women’s Prize for Fiction ‘Winner of Winners’ (25 years), for Half of a Yellow Sun, 2020

Other Awards

Future… Award (Young Person of the Year category), 2008

Girls Write Now Awards Groundbreaker honoree, 2015

Silverbird Special Achievement Award (joint winner with Desmond Majekodunmi and Alistair Soyode), 2016

Harper’s Bazaar’s Women of the Year Award, 2017

Recipient of the Leadership Award during The Women’s Center’s 32nd Annual Leadership Conference, 2018

Global Hope Coalition’s Thought Leadership Award, 2018

Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award, 2018

Everett M. Rogers Award, 2019

UN Foundation Global Leadership Award, 2019

Bookcity Milano Prize, 2019

Belle van Zuylenring Award, 2020

Woman of the Decade Award, ThisDay Nigeria, 2020

Africa Freedom Prize 2020 handed out by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, 14 December 2020

Nominations for Literary Awards

Shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing 2002, for ‘You in America’

Runner-up in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2002, for ‘The Tree in Grandma’s Garden’

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2004, for Purple Hibiscus

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2004, for Purple Hibiscus

Nominated for the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Best Books for Young Adults Award (2004), for Purple Hibiscus

Shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 2004/2005, for Purple Hibiscus

Nominated for the 33rd Annual National Book Critics Circle Prize (2006), for Half of a Yellow Sun

Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2007: Best Book (Africa), for Half of a Yellow Sun

Nominated for the British Book Awards 2007, category ‘Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year’, for Half of a Yellow Sun

Nominated for the James Tait Black Memorial prize 2007, for Half of a Yellow Sun

Longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Award 2008, for Half of a Yellow Sun

Nominated for the Reader’s Digest Author of the Year Award 2008

Longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2009, for The Thing around Your Neck

Shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 2009, for The Thing around Your Neck

Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010: Best Book (Africa), for The Thing around Your Neck

Nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize 2010, for The Thing around Your Neck (runner-up)

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Book Prize for Fiction, 2014, for Americanah

Nominated for the 2014 Forbes Africa ‘Person of the Year’ Award

Nominated for the 2014 YNaija! Person of the Year Award

Shortlisted for the International Impac Dublin Award 2015, for Americanah

Nominations for Other Awards

Nominated for the 2011 ThisDay Awards, ‘New Champions for an Enduring Culture’ category

Nominated for the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards, ‘Personality of the Year’ category

Nominated for the 2015 Forbes Africa Person of the Year Awards

Nominated for the 2017 New African Woman Awards, Woman of the Year

Other Distinctions

Listed among The New Yorker’s ’20 Under 40′, 2010

Listed among the ‘Ten Best Books of 2013’, New York Times Book Review, for Americanah

Listed among the ‘Top Ten Books of 2013’, BBC, for Americanah

Listed among the ‘100 Most Influential Africans 2013’, New African

Listed among the ‘Leading Women of 2014’ by CNN

Listed among the ‘100 Most Influential People’ by Time Magazine, 2015

Listed among the ‘100 Dynamic Women’ by Arise Magazine, 2015

Included in Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List, 2016

Winner of the ‘One Book, One New York Programme’, for Americanah, 2017

Included in Fortune Magazine’s List of 50 World Leaders, 2017

Winner of the ‘One Maryland, One Book’ Programme, for Purple Hibiscus, 2017

Contributor to Genius: 100 Visions of the Future, a 3D-printed book celebrating Albert Einstein

Listed among the best books of 2017 by NPR Books and Audible, for Dear Ijeawele

Selected for ‘One Maryland, One Book’, for Purple Hibiscus, 2017

Featured on PBS’s ‘The Great American Read’, for Americanah, 2018

Included in Barack Obama’s recommended summer reading list, for Americanah, 2018

Listed among the New York Times’ “15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century”, for Americanah, 2018

Listed among the ‘100 Novels That Shaped Our World’ by the BBC, for Half of a Yellow Sun, 2019

Listed among Time Magazine’s ’10 Best Fiction Books of the 2010s’, for Americanah, 2019

Listed among the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’, Africa Report (number 4)

Listed among the ‘World’s Most Inspiring People in 2019′ by OOOM Magazine

Listed among the ’20 Women Who Will Shape Events in Nigeria in 2020’, ThisDay, 2020

Honorary Doctorates & Academic Distinctions

Honorary doctorate, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, Connecticut, USA, 12 May 2015

Barnard Medal of Distinction, New York, USA, 17 May 2016

Honorary doctorate, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 18 May 2016

Elected as a Foreign Honorary Member into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 12 April 2017 (inducted 7 October 2017)

Honorary degree, Haverford College, Pennsylvania, USA, 13 May 2017

Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 28 August 2017

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree, Duke University, North Carolina, USA, 13 May 2018

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree, Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA, 20 May 2018

Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree, Bowdoin College, Maine, USA, 26 May 2018

Honorary Doctor of Literature (DLit) degree, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK, 27 July 2018

Honorary Degree, American University in Washington DC, USA, 11 May 2019

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA, May 2019

Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree, Rhode Island School of Design, USA, 1 June 2019

Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa, Yale University, USA, 10 June 2019

Honorary Degree, Northwestern University, USA, 21 June 2019

Honorary Degree, University of Pennsylvania, 18 May 2020

 

 

 

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