Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: my thoughts on the Nigerian novelist

It is telling the pea that lies in Chimamanda’s mattresses. Plainly so. The pea is about girls and women in Nigeria and in America. It is about Igbo, ke kwanu? It is about cassava rice and papaya wine. It is about lost femininity and the forgotten woman.

I am ten pages into her first novel, The Purple Hibiscus (2003), and this part of the book – Breaking Gods. Palm Sunday – already reads like the first story of her short stories collection ’The Thing Around Your Neck’. The similarities are stark and tedious: Peugeot 504, a girl (Kambili Achike) with a brother, mother and father. The story is narrated as seen through the eyes of Kambili growing up in Nigeria during the coup; finding identity and her place in society.

The bland similarities notwithstanding, she continues to weave the tapestry of her stories with a flare and panache that confirms what (the late) Chinua Achebe said about her: “…here is a [new] writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers”. Her story telling remains as easy as birdsong, her uncomplicated sense of humor is unmatched and the imagery is arresting.

Her new book – Americanah – was published in the UK in May 2013. Kwani? Trust shall publish the book in Kenya later this year.  I made every effort not to read the reviews or excerpts about the book but it was futile trying to stay away or even avoiding them anywhere the name Chimamanda was mentioned. So I read the one in The Sunday Times Magazine, written by Francine Prose. Off the top of your head, guess what centers the book’s theme? You are right: a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, in America. Her lover, Obinze, is in Britian.  “Both contend with a somewhat different approach to the questions of race, nationality and social class. Ifemelu is a sharp observer, with a gift for identifying and capturing those aspects of culture that seem entirely normal to Africans and Americans – and odd to those who come from elsewhere…. Ifemelu becomes the author of an anonymous blog on various observations about Americans blacks”.

I shall come off as pessimistic but I am already sorely disappointed about the book. I hate to say this, but this novel Americanah may just be the last I ever read of Chimamanda.

Chimamanda is a feminist. And feminism is the awful burden that she thrusts on the shoulders of her lead characters; a common denominator in all her novels. Maybe it is the neurosis from which she writes, or maybe the responsibility to shout it from the rooftops is a decision she swore upon. Maybe. Or maybe it is me; maybe I have outgrown her work’s traction or maybe the theme is beginning to pall on me. Maybe.

But I shall give her another chance. I shall buy the book. I shall attend the conversation or creative writing workshop that Kwani? shall put together. And I shall carry the book with me so she can sign it. And when I get a chance to shake her hand and look into those gorgeous large eyes (I have made you queasy back there, aye?), I shall ask her the question that has plagued my mind for a long time now: what are you all about Chimamanda?

Special feature: Happy birthday brah
Auditor turned writer: the eventual goodbye

Comments (8)

  1. tracy

    Flo,perharps you wood have had a better post if you had first finished reading Purple Hibiscus and also read Americanah.Maybe then you would not just have seen the similarities in her stories,but the simple way she makes ordinary stories beautiful – i suspect its because she writes from familar scenes in and consequently,brings emotional honesty into her stories. I think she is a brillant author – not withstanding the familar scenes of Nigeria in almost all her stories.But then again,different strokes for different folks.

  2. mimi

    Oh wow she must be so terrible! Terrible enough to win all those awards and not only that but is also a celebrated female author. Take the advice of the first commenter Tracy finish both books before you go making comparisons. A review should be of the book from start to finish not the first ten pages

  3. Juma Bahati Ali

    Well, it has become quite a common practice for writers to pen a short story which they later use as the first or a chapter in a novel. NoViolet Bulawayo did it with her Caine Prize-winning “We Need New Names”; I think one or two of the shortlists this year have indicated that the short story is part of an upcoming novel.

    Perhaps you may feel a certain dreary deja vu every time you read her work, but that is her niche. As a writer surely you must have one.

    • fra

      Fascinating, Ali.
      But her short-stories collection came after the novel, and not the other way round.
      What is your take on that?

  4. CAA

    Dear Fra
    100 pages into Americanah and I started to feel the same way. I have to agree with Juma Bahati Ali though, writers do build on their short stories turning them into novels. If you have read Ngugi wa Thiongo, then you will see this. It may be the case that ‘the thing around your neck’ was just published after the other two novels, but her short stories were written before.

    Having said that, I had a long discussion about the exact same issue with my partner the other day, and one important thing came out of …for whom is this book written? who is the audience? I totally identify with Americannah, having lived (and still living) in two european countries.

    But then again, you have a point in that really good writers will write about things they have not experienced and manage to draw a picture as if they themsleves were there. Aminata Forna does this in ‘the memory of love’….though to be fair, she is half sierra leonean.

  5. Juma Bahati Ali

    Fra, after reading Americanah, I now see your point. I have mixed views about the book, but I think on the whole it comes off as feminist. Not that it’s a bad thing. In an interview she actually says that the book’s ending is meant to annoy, and it does. I’ve done a small review on my blog.

    • fra

      Nice. I am excited.
      Let me read your review.

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker