I am still working on creating a 2017 reading list, but I thought it would be nice to start the new year with a sample of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work. Her award-winning books are constantly mentioned on the BookTube channels that I watch, and I thought that Adichie must be saying something very important to inspire so many readers. This is indeed the case—Adichie does have something very powerful to say.
In her book, We Should All Be Feminists, based on a TEDx talk given in 2012, Adichie wants to start a conversation about feminism. Through the exploration of personal anecdotes, Adichie examines her experience of being a black woman in her homeplace of Nigeria, as well as in the US and while traveling abroad. Adichie highlights how stereotypes limit thinking about being African and about feminism, and her work compels the reader to consider how much happier we might all be if we did not feel the weight of gender expectations and stereotypes bearing down upon us.
What I enjoyed most about this book was how the personal anecdotes Adichie offered reinforced her argument and created a performative act of bonding with the reader. Adichie is sharing these personal stories to create awareness of the discrimination that women face; her work elicits empathy and fosters a desire to break down gender barriers, which are harmful to both men and women.
Throughout our lives, we will have particular experiences because of our gender, race, age, religion, geographic location, etc. And this is why individual experiences are significant and should not be rendered hidden or lumped together. Adichie states this quite well: “Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression of human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender (39).”
My only complaint (if you can call it that) is related to the length of the book—it was far too short! Vintage Books and Anchor Books have been publishing Vintage Shorts like this one for a couple of years, and I suppose the marketing strategy makes a lot of sense; it is a great way to expose readers to sample prose from a variety of authors in e-book format for a relatively low price. And I have to admit that I am hoping to read another one of Adichie’s books this year, so apparently this marketing strategy works. I’m hooked!
Overall I am very glad to have read Adichie’s work. Although Adichie’s book was based on a talk given in 2012, the material covered is still very timely and offers the reader a concise statement on how we can arrive at a more nuanced feminism. If you are looking for a witty and personal take on feminism, this is a great book to pick up!