By Tene Samuels

As we approach the end of a decade and the start of a new one, fans of multiple award-winning writer and best-selling author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie declared her the celebrity of the decade, listing achievements and accolades she had garnered during the 10-year period.

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One of such fans wrote excitedly that she was the most successful Nigerian celebrity (not just writer) of the decade. The success here, most likely is not on material things but milestones achieved in this decade. Is this an ambitious claim by a zealous fan or could they be correct?

Going by the facts available, one could certainly say that Chimamanda Adichie has had a most impactful decade. Adichie’s third novel Americanah which centered on race and identity was published in 2013 and has received numerous awards including The New York Times Top 10 Best Books of 2013 and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction. In 2017, Americanah was selected as the winner of the “One Book, One New York” program, New York City’s first city-wide reading initiative.

Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun published in 2006, was recently named among BBC’s 100 Novels That Shaped Our World. The French translation of her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestionspublished in March 2017 was the non-fiction winner of Le Grand Prix de l’Héroïne Madame Figaro in the same year.

Adichie is not only celebrated for her writing, she is also an astute public speaker of international repute. Her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009) has been viewed more than eighteen million times and is one of the most popular TED talks of all time, and also being taught in schools all over the world.

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She has appeared in conversation with some of the leading figures of our time such as the former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton following Clinton’s delivery of the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture during the New York PEN World Voices Festival in April 2017 while she also interviewed former US First Lady Michelle Obama at the Southbank Center, London in December 2018. Her delivery of the 2018 Harvard College Class Day Speech was a major feature at the globally acclaimed university’s annual graduation event.

Adichie has been recognized internationally for her impact on a diverse global audience. She was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015. In 2017, Fortune Magazine listed her as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.

In November 2019, the United Nations Foundation honored Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in its annual awards ceremony with the Global Leadership Award for her work using literature and storytelling to connect with people across generations and cultures on issues of gender and racial equality. Adichie became not only the first Nigerian to receive the award, but also the youngest and first African to receive that honor.

She has received honorary doctorate degrees from 14 global universities including Yale University, John Hopkins University, the University of Edinburgh, Duke University, and SOAS University of London among others.

Chimamanda Adichie has left indelible footprints in the fashion scene and is globally recognized as a fashion icon. She was included in Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed list in 2016. Later that year, she was named as the face of British beauty brand Boots No. 7 and in May 2017, the author launched her own project, “Wear Nigerian,” to promote Nigerian brands and designers. She is also a firm believer in Project Nigeria, and her deep love for her native country is evident in her work. In 2011 the Nigerian Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, awarded her the Global Ambassador Achievement Award.

Judging by the foregoing, it will not be far from the truth to assert that Adichie is the most decorated author of not just the last decade but of our time, a true African giant in every sense of the word. Her influence in the past years has not only been confined to literature.

Her writing, words, action and even inaction has sparked up debates in feminism, fashion, governance, language as well as human rights. She is a fearless warrior who stood up for the people of Abba (her ancestral home) in Njikoka local government of Anambra state when oppressive forces tried to send them packing from a place they have called home for many centuries.

Adichie not only writes or speaks truth to power, she is ready to stand up for what is just and right. When she was named by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle as one of Vogue’s Forces of Change, Adichie said in a video interview for the magazine that if she had to make one change, “she would wave a magic wand and let the world be a place of true justice.”

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Tene, a freelance writer, writes from Lagos


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