Arts + Culture

9 Things We Learned From the 'One Book, One New York' Conversation With Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Some of the lessons we learned from the One Book, One New York Conversation at NYPL.

NEW YORK CITY — On June 5th, The New York Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment celebrated their One Book, One New York initiative with a conversation between Buzzfeed Books Editor Isaac Fitzgerald and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie’s best- selling book Americanah was selected as this year’s winner last February.


Below are 9 things we learned from their conversation about Americanah. 

There’s a reason why Ifemelu's character is so ‘difficult’

Adichie didn’t want her protagonist to be easily likeable, she wanted her to be unapologetic and sharp in her observations of America, constantly pushing back on the idea of the grateful immigrant that Americans love to champion.

“There’s something petulantly feminist in my decision to make her who she is [...] I used her as a tool because it’s easier to see things about a country when you’re not really from that country,” she says.

Aunty Uju’s character embodies the difficulties of the immigrant experience

In Americanah, one of Aunty Uju’s main qualms is treading the difficult line between assimilating into the culture she immigrated in and simultaneously retaining her cultural identity. Indeed, her move to America has metamorphosed her from an independent woman with a strong sense of self to a woman rattled by uncertainty. An experience many immigrants can attest to.

“A lot of immigrant go through that, you want to succeed in the new country. The things you find precious you want to hold on to. Sometimes you have to give up some of those things in order to succeed in the new country, it becomes this struggle,” Adichie says.

Ifemelu wouldn't have had a party after Trump’s victory, but she wouldn’t dismiss him as un-American

One thing Adichie, a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter wants to emphasize is that her protagonist would think that Trump is in fact genuinely American.

“I don’t think Ifemelu would buy into the sort of leftist idea that somehow this is not us. I think this clear-eyed honesty is important because in some ways to insist that this is such an aberration is to not be honest about it and not to think about why it happened,” she says.

Many of the views Ifemelu expresses — especially those on race — are Adichie’s.

Though Chimamanda is quick to point out that the character is not modelled after her—“her life is much more exciting than mine,” she jokes. In the book, Ifemelu voices a lot of the opinions she upholds on race. As a student in the US, Adichie discovered the concept of race and she wanted her protagonist to have that ‘HA!’ moment.

Ifemelu wasn’t supposed to move-in with Blaine

Like many writers in the process of developing her main characters, Adichie’s took up a life of their own. Initially, Ifemelu wasn’t supposed to move-in with the African-American professor, but somewhere in the process of developing the book, her character decided otherwise.

Adichie might continue Ifemelu’s blog.

Adichie got a taste for blogging thanks to her character Ifemelu’s job in Americanah and is considering for Ifemelu’s blog to take on a life of its own. We’ll be looking forward to that!

Adichie grew up reading romance novels but didn’t like their portrayal of women

The likes of Mills & Boon (it’s a Nigerian thing), but she couldn’t help but think that something was off about them. In the books she read, everyday life was portrayed as a fairytale, their protagonists thoughts were removed from the mundane concerns of getting paid, being stressed at work..etc.. Furthermore, she thought those books blatantly lacked any female agency. In Americanah, she wanted to create a more complex and real version of love, one that is messy and delves into female agency and desire.

In Americanah, Adichie was adamant about demystifying depression

It’s still taboo to talk about mental health issues in African and African-American communities and through her book, Adichie wanted to tackle some of the stigma associated with mental health. Adichie confesses to struggling with depression, it was thus important for her to write about the familiar feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness that at times washes over her.

“I think it is important to be honest about what it means to be human, that we are happy and we love but also we go through dark times. No one’s happy all the time,” she says.

Love isn’t about finding the one

Unsurprisingly, Adichie is against the idea of “the one.” She finds the notion that loves is supposed to complete you, erroneous. Instead, she believes that love should complement you.

“There’s an idea in the culture of finding the one, in which every relationship is a search for the one and I find it worrying because it means that you cannot be in a relationship and enjoy it for what it is. The one should be thrown out of the window, are men obsessed with the one? She says.

popular
(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

John Boyega Set to Star In Upcoming Netflix Sci-Fi Movie 'They Cloned Tyrone'

The film is being described as "Friday-meets-Get Out."

Fresh off his performance as Finn in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker John Boyega is set to take on another leading role, this time in the Netflix's upcoming sci-fi comedy They Cloned Tyrone. The Hollywood Reporter first broke the news.

The film will be the directorial debut of Juel Taylor the writer behind Creed 2. He co-wrote the script for They Cloned Tyrone with Tony Rettenmaier.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Still from YouTube

Michael Kiwanuka Pays Homage to the Black Liberation Movements of the '60s In New Video 'Hero'

The artist's latest single references some of his personal heroes including Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Tupac Shakur and more.

British-Ugandan soul singer Michael Kiwanuka drops another single ahead of the release of his forthcoming album, KIWANUKA.

In "Hero" the singer pays homage to the Black Power and Civil Rights movements of the 1960s and 70s. The music video, directed by CC Wade references several Black leaders and some of the artist's personal heroes including Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., Sam Cooke, Tupac Shakur, Marvin Gaye and more. It also depicts the FBI's often illegal efforts to stop Black movements and other anti-establishment groups through its Counterintelligence Program, as noted in Rolling Stone.

Keep reading... Show less
News Brief
(Photo by Emma McIntyre/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)

Daniel Kaluuya Is Producing a Live-Action 'Barney' Movie with Mattel

Yes, you read that correctly.

In a move that absolutely no one saw coming, Oscar-nominated actor Daniel Kaluuya is set to produce a live-action Barney movie in conjunction with Mattel Films. The Hollywood Reporter first broke the story.

Kaluuya will co-produce the film as part of his 59% production banner, which signed a first-look deal with Paramount back in May. Speaking on his involvement with the project and the impact of Barney & Friends, Kaluuya had this to say: "Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood. We're excited to explore this compelling modern-day hero and see if his message of 'I love you, you love me' can stand the test of time."

Keep reading... Show less
popular
(Photo Courtesy of the Artist)

Busy Signal Drops New Video for '100%' Featuring Afro B

Premiere: The Jamaican dancehall star and afrowave artist partner up for a comical new song and video.

Busy Signal has teamed up with Afro B for a fiery song and hilarious video for their new track, "100%".

Born and bred in Jamaica, Busy Signal's signature dancehall-reggae sound with an electronic lean is always a refreshing twist. His sound mixed with "Drogba (Joanna)" star Afro B's smooth afrowave style makes this new track, well, 100% dope.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.