By Nehru Odeh
Bestselling writer, feminist and public intellectual, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has opened up on how she felt at the reading of the Narrative Landscape edition of her latest book, Notes on Grief, which held at Alliance Francaise, Mike Adenuga Centre in Lagos on Saturday, 15 January 2022. The event was co-organised by her and her publishers, Narrative Landscape Press Limited.
The multiple award-winning author, who lost her parents in the space of months last year, has said in a Facebook post that when she heard people speak of their experiences of grief at the book reading it made her feel a sense of communality. According to her it made her think of the African way of mourning, which is collectively and publicly. Chimamanda made that post on Thursday, 20 January alongside a short video.
“A moving and beautiful evening reading from the Narrative Landscape edition of Notes on Grief at Alliance Francaise, Lagos and hearing my people speak of their own experiences of grief. It made me think of that African way of mourning: collectively, publicly.
“The tears felt calming and cleansing. Thank you to everyone who came. May all of us who mourn find small comforts day by day,” she said.
Chimamanda, who wrote “Notes on Grief” in the wake of her beloved father’s death in 2020, revealed at the book reading that she initially wrote the essay, which was first published in the New York Times, as a form of release and without the intention to publish, as she writes to express whatever she’s feeling.
The author of bestselling novels such as Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah has always spoken of how much she loved and adored her parents – Prof. James and Mrs Grace Adichie – and how their deaths in a space of months broke her heart. “Notes on Grief” is a poetic page-turner, laced with themes of meditation, remembrance, hope, familial obligation, allegiance, and loss.
During the book reading, her first event in 2022, Chimamanda who is arguably Africa’s most decorated writer read parts of the book to the audience. Thereafter, there was a Q&A session where the author fielded questions from readers and members of the press.
The question and answer session quickly turned into an impromptu group therapy session as readers opened up about their struggles with grief and how the book is helping them cope with it.
“I also just felt really heartened that people were talking about their own grief. Ours is a country where we’re often told to move on. So you’re grieving and someone tells you, ‘oh, sorry, it has happened. Just move on,” said Chimamanda.
“I’m grateful because I think it takes, not just showing vulnerability, but strength to talk about these things,” she added.
The book reading commenced with an opening address from the French ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann. Also in attendance were the French Consul General in Lagos, Laurence Montmayrant; Titi Adenuga, wife to Nigerian billionaire, Mike Adenuga; and other members of the diplomatic corps, literary, media and business community alike.
Chimamanda’s Nigerian publishers, Narrative Landscape Press were represented by their co-founder, Dr Eghosa Imasuen, who read the citation that followed the French ambassador’s introduction.
The book event was wrapped up outside at the Alliance Française amphitheatre where more fans were waiting to get their books signed by the author.
Chimamanda shot to international limelight in 2003, following the release of her debut novel, ‘Purple Hibiscus‘ which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her second novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ (2006), won the Orange Prize. Her 2013 novel Americanah won the US National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. In 2020, she was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction ‘Winner of Winners’ award for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun.
Chimamanda’s work has been translated into over thirty languages. She has delivered two of the most viewed TED talks of all time: her 2009 TED Talk The Danger of A Single Story and her 2012 TEDx Euston talk We Should All Be Feminists, which started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014.