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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 advice.)
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.
About the Author-
- 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, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the 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 won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
Starred review from February 27, 2017
Its tough to imagine anyone other than Adichie narrating the audio edition of her feminist manifesto, which originated as a TED Talk and was later adapted into a book. Many listeners will recognize the Nigerian writer’s voice and words from pop star Beyoncé’s song “Flawless,” which featured sound bites from Adichie’s original speech. Here, those sound bites are put into context and given weight as Adichie lays out her creed. Her voice is both gentle and confident as she takes listeners through the deeply conditioned sexism she has encountered, beginning with her encounters with the label “feminist” growing up and drawing on her own experiences as well as those of other women in her life. She coolly relays the story of a woman in Nigeria who decided to sell her house because she didn’t want to intimidate a man who might want to marry her, followed by another story of an unmarried woman who wears a wedding ring to conferences so that her colleagues show her more respect. Adichie presents these anecdotes in a deliberate, matter-of-fact style. She keeps heightened emotions and urgency out of her voice, instead making use of poignant pauses to let what is she is saying sink in. It’s a powerful message, recorded in a way that will make people listen again and again. A Knopf paperback.
December 15, 2014
An enchanting plea by the award-winning Nigerian novelist to channel anger about gender inequality into positive change. Employing personal experience in her examination of "the specific and particular problem of gender," National Book Critics Circle winner Adichie (Americanah, 2013, etc.) gently and effectively brings the argument about whether feminism is still relevant to an accessible level for all readers. An edited version of a 2012 TEDxEuston talk she delivered, this brief essay moves from the personal to the general. The author discusses how she was treated as a second-class citizen back home in Nigeria (walking into a hotel and being taken for a sex worker; shut out of even family meetings, in which only the male members participate) and suggests new ways of socialization for both girls and boys (e.g., teaching both to cook). Adichie assumes most of her readers are like her "brilliant, progressive" friend Louis, who insists that women were discriminated against in the past but that "[e]verything is fine now for women." Yet when actively confronted by an instance of gender bias-the parking attendant thanked Louis for the tip, although Adichie had been the one to give it-Louis had to recognize that men still don't recognize a woman's full equality in society. The example from her childhood at school in Nigeria is perhaps the most poignant, demonstrating how insidious and entrenched gender bias is and how damaging it is to the tender psyches of young people: The primary teacher enforced an arbitrary rule ("she assumed it was obvious") that the class monitor had to be a boy, even though the then-9-year-old author had earned the privilege by winning the highest grade in the class. Adichie makes her arguments quietly but skillfully. A moving essay that should find its way into the hands of all students and teachers to provoke new conversation and awareness.
COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Starred review from February 1, 2016
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
Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
- Vogue "Nuanced and rousing."
- San Francisco Chronicle "Adichie is so smart about so many things."
PublisherKnopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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