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LITERATURE

Video: Nigerian author's ‘Americanah’ comes to France

FRANCE 24 I Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of Africa’s most feted writers. Her latest novel, “Americanah,” hit French bookstands this month.

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The novel recounts the story of Ifemelu, a young, beautiful woman who is forced to confront what it means to be black in the United States for the first time after leaving her home in military-ruled Nigeria.

To promote the publication of “Americanah” in France, Adichie took part in a discussion about the book, as well as the subject of identity in literature, at the Maison de la Poésie in Paris on Wednesday. There was not an empty seat in the house.

Listed as one of the New York Time’s Ten Best Books of the Year and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the novel has already sold 500,000 copies in the US and has been translated into 25 different languages.

And Adichie’s popularity just keeps on growing. Musician Beyoncé sampled the author’s “We Should All be Feminists” speech in her 2013 song, “Flawless”. There are also plans in the works to turn “Americanah” into a feature film starring actors Brad Pitt and Lupita Nyong’o.

At the Maison de la Poésie, ardent fans stood patiently in line for a signed copy of Adichie’s book.

“I think she deals with really real issues,” one woman said. “I think I relate to the characters she writes about. Them being female, black. I think her protagonists are really realistic and really likeable.”

After the event, Adichie headed to the offices of her French publisher, Gallimard. There she said that like Ifemelu, the main character in “Americanah,” she first discovered the issue of race after moving to the United States as a young woman – perhaps explaining where some of the realism that appeals to her readers comes from.

“I wasn’t black until I went to America. I became black in America,” Adichie told FRANCE 24. “In Nigeria I didn’t think of myself as black. I think in Nigeria my identity markers were religion and ethnicity.

“It’s discovering that being black means something, and those things that blackness means are not often very positive things.”
 

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