Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Dividing her time between Nigeria and the USA, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has become one of the world’s most internationally-respected authors. After three acclaimed novels including Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, her most recent title, Dear Ijeawale takes the form of a series of letters to a friend about feminism and motherhood. In this event, filmed live at the 2017 Edinburgh International Book Festival, Adichie is interviewed by Scotland’s First Minister about her work and ideas.

welcome everybody welcome to the Edinburgh International Book Festival thank you to the festival for hosting this very special event this evening and thank you also to the University of Edinburgh for sponsoring this event I have to admit to you I am beyond excited right now to be sharing a stage with a writer whose work I have admired and been inspired by for a long long time it is a huge honour for me to be speaking this evening with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie let's give her a very [Applause] I told you there would be a good audience thank you so much of course you've been in Edinburgh for the afternoon you were awarded an honorary degree at Edinburgh University have you had a nice time so far I have indeed but but really I just want to start by saying how how how much of an fangirl I am I really am and so I've actually decided that I wasn't going to do much travel because I'm trying to just save my time for writing and when I was asked to come here my first thought was I mean you know I really love this festival but I want to write and then Nick said would you be willing to do an event with Nick I was like yes so I'm here and I'm going to dine out on that forever no look command and I our boss I think it's fair to see feminists yes but but just to prove that some of the myths about feminism are just that myths I want to tell you a little story when we first met each other tonight the first thing we talked about was shoes and I have to say I've got huge shoe envy right now but but I really supposed takes me on to the first thing I wanted to talk to you about tonight or for you to talk to the audience about tonight which is feminism we'll come on to talk about your fiction at later you're obviously renowned for your wonderful fiction but you've made such an impact with we should all be feminists and this beautiful beautiful book the letter to your friend dear Jia Wei Li the advice on bringing up her daughter as a feminist and what I think is so special especially about the second one is that it's not about this theory of feminism it's it's about the practice of feminism it's giving all of us advice about how to live our latest feminists is that what you've intended in rating the yes and I think in some ways also it was about myself and when when my friend asked me I remember thinking I don't know I mean I would but I then started to think about never really and I started to think about it and and I think also there's a part of me that takes distinct and maybe unhealthy pleasure in telling people what to do and so I thought this would be a good opportunity but really was a map of my own thinking and and because for me feminism has never been about theory I I didn't I'm not a feminist because I read any of the seminal texts some of which I have since read some of which I haven't managed to finish but I became a feminist I'm a FEMINIST because I watched the wall you know because I'm and and for me feminism isn't about having arguments of theory it's about changing the damn world and I'm interested in conversations that deal with things that matter but real you know how do we live our lives and I hoped that it would be useful like useful just in a very practical way moving women ready and it was it was good for me as well I think when I wrote it I wasn't a mother and but now that I am it's useful for me it's it's I find it I mean I wouldn't change anything I don't think but it's yeah I thought of it as a kind of a kind of a map of my of my own what I think what I think we should how I think we should change the world because that's really in the end what it's about yeah I love when you you see that it's about teaching women and men just to be happier yeah to be themselves I really because I really think me and part of what I think is is lost in the deep in many of the mainstream debates of feminism is how it's really not just that it's about justice but that it's really about men and women being better of happier because I think masculinity is a terrible cage for men and I think that that while men as a group are privileged that even that privilege can be a cage you know that idea that men men raised with just all of these really in my opinion sadly constraining ideas of what it means to be a man and and for me one of the main things that feminism should do is to start to remake masculinity in a tutu we should start to say what is it to be masculine and we should start to say we should start to praise men who are vulnerable and who I touch with emotions and and I also would venture to say that if we defined redefine masculinity maybe certain things happening in the world wouldn't be happening I mean there's a sense in which that idea of masculinity that that I'm going to say something rather crude but in a nice way of men feeling the need to measure certain body parts if we redefine masculinity that wouldn't be part of that wouldn't really matter anymore but yeah I think that's really I maybe I don't know a little bit challenging for some in the audience but I think that's absolutely right I've always believed feminism is as much about liberating men yes as it is about losing women and taking away all of those preconceived ideas of what it means to be a man and why don't we have to be able was also struck me is it's such a beautiful intimate letter that you're writing a friend did you always intend to publish it no no actually I didn't and I I made a few changes I mean I made sure to take out things that were too particular to her but I I really didn't and so I decided to make it public I put it up on my Facebook page because there'd been debates in Nigeria or feminism and I was getting really annoyed by a lot of what I thought was just very retro geared thinking about about gender so I thought I'll put this up on my Facebook page and hopefully somebody will find it useful and then decided to publish it so it never wars and I think maybe that's why I like to think that it has that there's an authenticity to it because it's it's real and yeah yeah I think it's wonderful having everybody man and women should should read it we should give it out in schools I think and do you think I mean one of the things I think often just know is that and this might sound really strange given the struggles that women had years gone by the struggles women still have in many parts of the world that in some ways it's harder today to be a feminist harder to be a woman because you know sometimes it's said to me pointing at me a woman as First Minister we have a woman Prime Minister that those battles are all one you know there's still things like pay gap but those battles are on the way hopefully to being one and you almost have to prove the battles that were so fighting the the cultural attitudes the barriers women still face so in many ways for younger women today is it's more difficult do you do you think that yes but you know I think it's always been difficult I mean I think that I think that parts of the wall that started to tell themselves that things are fine with gender even when they weren't and I think there's a sense in which we should also start to talk about that idea that women are somehow morally better they're not you know women are not special it's I think it's important to make that part of the feminist discourse women are normal they're human they're ordinary and I say this because I think that there's also a judgement that that women in positions of power political power such as yourself I think come undone and I see this as somebody who I like to follow I like to sort of read about women politicians women judo's that the way that the cover it interests me very much because I'm always very aware of how that the standards are never quite the same I think that this idea that women are somehow morally better means that that judged much more harshly so there's a woman politician in Nigeria who some years ago was accused of having stolen quite a bit of money and Nigerian politicians you know rather adept at things of that sort and I remember how how Hashi just criticized and how often the criticism was sort of couched in the language of gender it was she's a woman how could she and I find that really dehumanizing I find that really dehumanizing and and you know we can talk about the the focus on appearance right that that's often reserved for women which for me is not even as insidious as the kind of more the way that the things that a woman politician does would be judged very differently if if a male politician did the same thing so I do think it's for younger women I mean I think it's so much more complicated because because there's a in some ways I think you know the sort of the idea that all things are fine I mean generally people will say oh this isn't Saudi Arabia right I mean you can drive and you can food so why are you complaining and so I think because there is in some ways a greater subtlety almost so sometimes you find that you're in a position to have to prove it yeah which I find it's Austin people will say to you well how do you know it's gender yeah and and it's easy to discount because it's not so black and white I mean at least not not in certain parts of the world that I often say that in Nigeria sexism is quite in your face and there's something almost refreshing about it because at least you know what you're dealing with in Western Europe and in the u.s. it's layered so then you're sort of dealing with a lot and I think then it can become more dangerous yeah more difficult yes reading that because of it spoke very directly to me you know when I was a younger woman in politics what was very often said about me and I used to cop sex I didn't think it was true but that I didn't smile you would never hear that a man and yeah in politics and things and in men that are seen as you know leadership assertiveness in a woman you're bossy and strident and you know the judgments are just yep completely I remember actually when I really became a fierce fangirl of yours so I followed you know I sort of I follow I follow you K politics and and what's interest I have to admit early don't always understand it neither do high because they read certain things on certain things I don't quite I mean there's just I don't quite understand this but okay and I remember reading speaks about how she's too serious and I remember feeling this rage and I thought what the fu I mean why is that criticism why you know it's it's sort of that idea that of course of course she should be serious serious is good I was trying not to go into one of my rants but yeah I mean I remember just really feeling that that and and the people for whom that would be easy to brush our side on well that's not such a bad but it is it is because what it does is that the the the standards are not the same yeah and if the center is not the same we don't have justice well I don't you mean about the the reject myself feeling that same read watching the American election and I'm watching how Hillary Clinton oh goodness yes and then you know you still hear people saying it wasn't yeah because she was a woman and of course not everything was because she was a woman but watching it from afar so much of the so many of the judgments made you were absolutely of course ago there were and you fight I found myself being in a position of them and because I was a Hillary Clinton supporter but even if I hadn't been and so for me this talking about gender isn't really about ideology because I can disagree mean I don't really buy into the sort of that idea of the sisterhood in feminism where you know it's supposed to support every woman I don't I'm sorry because there's certain women I just can't support but I can think of one in the [Applause] but but I think what I will always do just on principle is is refused to go along with a woman being criticized because she's a woman and you can tell you can tell when it's ideological which i think is fine right I want to rip apart the ideologies of people I don't agree but to criticize them in ways that you wouldn't criticize a man I just find and with Hillary Clinton I think because I supported her and and thought that she was by far the better qualified candidate it was even more galling for me and but what's even more interesting is that when you have these conversations with some people they ask you well prove it or they'll say no it wasn't because she's a woman it was because you know Cookie Monster likes to eat cookies I mean people will pull out every imaginable reason just so that it's not gender and I find even that very telling but but I also think that maybe there's something instructive in in Hillary Clinton's in everything that happened hopefully I think that when I think that when historians look back I think it's going to be very clear how how much had been a woman played a role in in in what's become America's catastrophic present well we've managed to take ourselves and seamlessly into American politics know oh we could just do it you Kia policy if you could explain some things to me like what breaks that I can't do that I'm sorry it's inexplicable to me I just would like to have it I mean really do tables are turning here I meant to be interviewing you but I do want to ask you I mean I'm just really what when seriously though when do you find time to read everything is is such an essential part of my being that I can't imagine not reading I struggle to find the time to read and I don't find as much time as possible but if I didn't read my whole well-being and ability to function would suffer so I try to read something every day even if it's just a few pages before I fall asleep late at night and this week I've been rereading you books in advance of which has which allows me to get back to interviewing but yeah reading is such an essential part of who I am I couldn't imagine life without it but I have been rereading a half of a Yellow Sun this week but one of my favorite books of all time is that there's Americana and I've always wanted to ask you this so now I've got the chance is the main character than Americana based on you to any great extent maybe not I think well I think one of the wonderful things about doing things of this sort after writing fiction is when you're writing fiction you're not really thinking I mean there's a lot that's unconscious there's a lot that's and then afterwards you have to invent answers to questions like this too so depending on my mood I'll say yes it was about me and other days when I'm not in a very good mood like oh no of course not but but really I think that all my characters are partly me and if emily is sort of me I mean my friends said to me she's you without the warmth which you know I thought because I really like her I like her too and I wanted her to be in some ways I think that she was a deliberate construct on my part I wanted I'd become really tired of women writers being told that the women characters were not likable yeah it's it's it's it's something that many women writers identify with they're often told oh that she's not likable she's not you know you have to you have to change her and make her likable and I thought it's easy I want people who are complex and interesting and textured and I think that's the way people are really and so I didn't want her to be easy I wanted her to be complicated I wanted her to to make some bad choices because we all did those who have betrayed American it's about a Nigerian woman living in the United States and one of the things that struck me one of the comics she made is that you didn't really think about race and racism until you left Nigeria and went to the United States I wasn't black until I went to America that's really I really wasn't I mean in Nigeria I didn't think of myself as black I didn't need to think of myself as black and even now every time I go back home because I spent I split my time between the u.s. and legals and every time I get off the plane in in Lagos I don't think of race I don't remember that I'm black I think about many other things many other things that become great sources of irritation for me and in some ways I think gender becomes even more present in the u.s. I walk into a room I'm immediately aware of how many black people are there I'm very eve and and I've learnt in the u.s. the nuances of race when I first went I didn't quite get it because again you know Nigeria has many problems but but the idea of identity being based on skin color just doesn't exist and and not even that because I often say that it's not the problem isn't the skin which you know I adore and find glorious but the problem is other people's stereotypes that they've attached to it and so when I went to the US for example I remember being in class and it was an English class and it was the first people we had written and the professor came back in and said who is adichie that the Americans find it very difficult to pronounce my last name @dg and so when I raised my hand he said this is the best paper that I've read and he said who is this and I raised my hand and he looked surprised and it was very small fleeting moment but I remember that moment thinking and I'll never forget it because I remember thinking this is what race means in America he doesn't expect the person who wrote the best paper to be black and having come from Nigeria where you know in Nigeria each morning we take we have a glass of of Aragon pride for breakfast and so I remember thinking how can he be surprised how dare you but I think we might be a Nigerian you know what we're life you know I yes we're all brilliant but but you know and it became a learning experience for me and also there's a sense in which I wanted if Emily's journey to mirror that because a lot of what she experiences I experienced as well I mean I I dramatize things a bit in the book but you know that idea that you then want to separate yourself from me because you know it's negative so for a lot for my first year in the US I didn't want to be black I didn't go to the black Students Union I was like no I'm not black I'm Nigerian and and I realize now looking back that even that is an indictment of American racism it was my way of you know if being black in America were benign I would not have had that that that reaction and then I started reading I mean and reading is just really my life's greatest consolation and I read American history I read African American history in particular and suddenly my eyes were open I just thought my god these things happen so recently and this country seems at least on the surface not to be burning up I mean I mean I think the in the unimaginable in Justices that African Americans have experienced at the hand of the American state is something that I think hasn't really even the story hasn't been told fully one of the things about Americana that you know it was published I think just after him Obama was reelected and although yeah it's it's all about the challenges and the the very difficult issues that that she faces I thought there was a real sense of optimism and hope that runs through it perhaps because of of the Obama presidency and which takes us back to you know where we are now I think from those of for those of us looking at the states from the outside just know for it is quite difficult speaking personally to to understand is not just the election of Trump but how our country goes from electing its first black president to trump in such a short space of time yeah but you know I really think that they are connected I think that Trump would not have happened if Obama hadn't happened I think that there's a sense in which Trump is a reaction to Obama and there is a lot of talk about the Obama Trump voters the people who voted for Obama and who now voted for Trump and I really think that there's a sense in which the black man was allowed in the White House or suddenly I liked actually that wasn't such a good idea so now we're going to go to the other extreme and have this jingoist so I think that the two things that are connected and I think that that race and gender really in some ways explain the election and and I see this of course having read a lot about the economic reasons that are ostensibly behind Trump's win and and I've spent time sort of poring at all these studies of the electorate and actually many of the people who are in economic distress voted for Hillary Clinton so I think that I think that oh but that Trump and Obama this it's strange but in some ways if you look at America it's not that it's not that surprising that that I'm not I'm not as surprised as some people are that there are many Obama Trump voters I think I think it's sort of American history is so steeped in racism I mean I think it's very easy to forget that it's so steeped in racism and and because I think race is the one subject that Americans still cannot really talk about honestly it's the one subject that makes everybody very uncomfortable yeah and I think because of that it's hard to see how much its forms America how you look at different laws and you look at the history and almost all of them have something to do with race and so it's not really for me not that surprising I mean it's it's sad and and quite frankly in a personal level very worrying but it's not surprising and I also don't buy the idea that Trump is somehow not America or somehow not representative of America I have many well-meaning liberal friends who say this is not us actually it is John is America and just as Obama Awards yeah you know here we many of us look on and in horror and almost disbelief it what was happening on a day to day basis but what's it like to live there just night I mean it's the serious question does it feel different oh yes oh yes oh yes it absolutely does absolutely I mean which is why I think a government sets the tone and that tone trickles down to just the most ordinary lives and I coming to the u.s. coming so when I'm in Nigeria when I go back to the US I always go back with a certain sense of of dread just for the most practical things I'm thinking I have a Nigerian passport in a u.s. green card and I'm thinking has he passed a crazy law which means that somebody who tell me you can't be admitted even though you have a green card I mean just sort of basic practical things but more philosophically I think there's a sense of its suspicion for me and really for many of my friends who are not white who suddenly are thinking about white people around them you know I are you one of them right because now we don't know you don't know who supports somebody who clearly doesn't believe in the equal citizenship of people of color and so there's a kind of actually a few days after Trump Warren I remember looking at the window of my of my home in a very nice part of of the state of Maryland and suddenly going to a slight panic and thinking oh my god my neighbors voted for Trump they probably have a gun that means come shoot us I mean it was and it was unreasonable okay thinking about it intellectually because I thought of course that's something to happen but having read so much and seen what was happening in America it was a real visceral anxiety that I had I'm happy to announce it cause I my neighbors are all lovely people but that you're right government but it said tones or they do yeah the anxiety that can be caused if that tone is yeah is the wrong one out of everything one or one that makes people and safe yep let's leave Trump yes let's do that you're one of the things that I think is so utterly fascinating and engrossing about your boots is just how multi-layered they are you know your books they cover politics history war they are love stories yes you talk about fashion and here and foods all encompassed and in in one novel what what's the starting point for a book for you is it is it the the theme is that the the moment history or the character it's it really depends often it's mood it's it's um it's a it's this kind of a more force thing so I start a book and I have an idea of what I want to do but I never quite know where it's going and and for me that's the pleasure because if I if I knew the endings of my of my books then I wouldn't want to write them so that for me the journey is the pleasure and just when it's going well I makes me so happy I feel transported I am I'm and that's when my writing is going well those are the few times when I'm actually quite fun to be around it doesn't happen often enough sadly so it really it really depends but I think it's really just that I'm interested in people I think that some writers who are more interested in ideas than in people and you know whose work I will read and find interesting but I think that fiction functions best when it can make us connect on a human level and and it's impossible to think of human beings if we don't think about the totality of them which is why for example I think are talking about shoes is as important as talking about brexit it's certainly more pleasant it strikes me half of a Yellow Sun must have been but you know your family I know we're involved in the Biafran war yeah you lost both your grandfather's died it must have been an intensely personal very novel have written it was very very personal did you always want to write I did I you know as the child who was haunted by our history I was and I and I I think that most families have that one child who want to know what their story is and as a child and so it's hard for me to explain where it came from I was just always haunted by our past and my father talked so much about his father who my father describes my grandfather as a fiercely moral man which is a description of always loved and so it really for me was about trying to understand this thing this phenomenon that had taken my grandfather's and that had really shaped my parents lives my parents lost everything they had and but at the same time they believed very much in this cause and and for me it was important to try and capture that so that people and in some ways for me as a Nigerian today in a country that I think sadly is lacking in any kind of real ideological positions the idea of of believing in a cause and something that isn't just about you know how do we share the revenue among the states for me it's just really inspiring I agree but oh I just realized that there might be parallels in joy here which was not intended but yeah there are some different ways to see but I'm a huge huge fan of historical fiction it's one of one of my favorite genres and I often wonder people who write historical fiction how true you feel you have a responsibility to be obviously true to the generality of the story but to the detail of it you feel you have to stay absolutely true to that or do you have some flexibility I am kind of quite conservative about that I think that it's important to stay true to things if you're going to write I mean it's not fantasy maybe you're caught you'd so I do think it's important and and for me in particular half of a Yellow Sun I knew for many people would not just be literature it would be history yeah and my generation of Nigerians because Nigeria like like you know really all countries buries the parts of its past that it's uncomfortable about and so we didn't really learn very much about Biafra when I was in school and so I really wanted to get the facts right because I knew that many of my generation would read that and and for them it would be history and so I find that what I do read novels that are historical and if something is off I get intensely irritated because I and and I feel that way also about historical because I think why do you need to make something up the truth is actually very interesting what did you think of the film of the videos I thought it was a good film um I thought that'd be who's who's the who made the film who's also a friend of mine in some ways the film was different from the book and I remember and I wasn't part of I what I didn't I choose not to be involved after having one conversation with being which he said that the main character in the novel would not be the main focus of the film and I just thought no it was like oh who is the soul and he said no we won't walk on screen and at that point I stepped back because I thought I'm not a filmmaker I don't know how films work but I also think that it's it's a novel that maybe actually would have been better served as the miniseries I think it's really difficult to compress a novel like that into to our future film I've not seen the film saying I don't really enjoy seeing films of boots I love because I never think they'll live up to to the boot like I've got one more question before I'm going to open up to our wonderful audience here one of the pieces of advice you give your friend and raising a daughter this teacher to love books and and reading what books did did you like meeting what book – do you like meeting what writers do you you love oh there's so many I really when I was growing up I read everything I I was a child who my father is a professor of statistics so we really didn't have that many sort of novels in the house so I read everything that I could understand in my father's library which meant I would you know I couldn't of course understand the annals of statistics but I could understand my father had books on history of the Roman Catholic Church and I read that when I was 9 so at the age of 11 I was I was you know that very annoying child who in school would lecture her friends about things that have friends knew nothing about so I would tell them about Vatican's here at 9 years old yes I look back now and I don't know how the terminals admit some crates just ridiculous but I and now as an adult I find actually you know I what I miss is there's a kind of the ability to absolutely be absorbed in books today I think I've lost a little yeah when I was when I was younger I could just I could disappearing books for just long stretches of time now I don't know if it's because I I live part of the year in the US and I have now been tainted by that thing called a short attention span which seems to be an American affliction but and I don't know why but now I read four books at the same time and I so I read I really read I read everything I find that I'm partial to a certain kind of realistic fiction that does psychology and human you know that the kind that you read and you sort of feel like you know the character but I also and I love stories so I don't mean I mean I find that whenever books are described as meditations I'm a little worried but but there's some that I've read and loved but you know in general I also like I like I read a lot of nonfiction recently I I like to read history I think I read everything it's hard to I mean right now the the writers that I'm loving I'm rereading a lot of Rebecca West who I just adore and I'm also reading a biography of those I find that I find comfort in reading about unusual women because it makes me feel less alone Oh strange women and just knowing that they're women who've chosen to live their lives in ways that weren't considered conventional I just find really comforting so I rereading her I just really loved her and also I'm a book that I deeply love is Elizabeth Hardwick sleepless nights I Chinua Achebe is the writer who's very important to me he gave me permission to write I mean he is I just adore him but there's so much I love I mean I think maybe actually what I don't love I think it will be a smaller pile which would be fantasy science fiction I mean god bless those genres I I know that the and you know like a friend of mine said to me one she said you know they don't need you because they have many many readers so well let's eat it for strange unconventional women okay we're going to take a few questions from from our audience now I will try to be fair to all parts of the room did I see a hand just just here hi I'm a psychologist and I am very interested in resilience and helping young people build psychological resilience particularly about like dealing with setback because you all of us will have a lot of setbacks in life I'm just wondering what's your experience of Brazilians what you consider as the most important thing or important message to young people about building this psychological resilience I think I think you would be more suited as a break it's a very good question I mean I in in politics as in many other walks of life you have to learn to be very resilient both because you get knock backs all the time I mean I lost many many elections before I first won an election and so you learn to not go away even though though some people might wish you did and come back and learn from experience is I think the most important thing is to try to learn from failure not be as afraid of failure not not but see it as part of of your learning so that would be the most important advice I would give to anybody around resilience how close do you come to giving in to failure you have your moments of self-doubt and and moments of thinking do I really want to to do this anymore but they're very few and far between because you know the position I'm in now is such a privilege that the good bits vastly outweigh the bad bits but over the years yeah you you find moments where your confidence in yourself as is perhaps quite low and those are really difficult moments you've got to draw and experience I think that gets easier as you get older because you'll get one of a whale of experience to draw on I know I do can't help but agree very enthusiastically about how I think it gets easy and better for women as they get older meaning in many ways the the I mean you might have to start thinking about things like eye cream but but but just in a more sort of substantive ways I think that as I'm going to be 40 in a few weeks that you're not about to get any sympathy from me right now okay well I've done that but really I do feel that it gets them your skin starts to feel like your own and you start to UM you just realized that you look in the bag of Fox to give and it's empty it's empty [Applause] I have to apologize to the elderly in the room who probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about but in terms of resilience I I think I don't even know I I do think that it's important to let young people know that life is not going to that difficult is a part of life that you will fall down at some point and and I say that because I think increasingly while I I think it's it's wonderful that children now are being raised with a sense of self esteem and all of that it's easy to overdo it and and sometimes I'm observing the US and I think maybe you shouldn't give the child an A for effort right maybe F what should be seen as ordinary and and I think that when you do that to a child consistently they don't have resilience so suddenly when something comes in their way they don't know how to navigate it and what I know that in my childhood when I was growing up I certainly didn't get an A for effort I grew up in a very loving very happy childhood but very happy home but I you know I didn't yeah I did I didn't get a staffer and for effort I got a star when I actually did well and when I didn't I remember my father would say to me never mind you can do better and you know so he didn't say to me no but it's great that you do you know he'd just be like well this wasn't good but hey you can do better and I find that that at least for me it helped me and I find that I you there's quite a bit I can weather but then also I have moments when I just crawl into the bed and eat ice cream and feel sorry for myself and I intend to make room for that as well but if I think it's so dishonest to pretend that we're always strong nobody's always strong and and I think it's important for women to sort of make room for themselves to feel that you know I hate self-pity but sometimes I give in to it and and you know I know this sounds very perverse but being famous affords you many opportunities for self-pity by generally giving about once in four months that's not bad I mean yeah obviously I know politics better than I know anything else but it's one of the things that's very difficult about politics and probably more difficult for women is that it's not okie yes to admit vulnerability it's not okay to admit doubt or weakness about anything and actually I think politics might be a lot better if if we wear a low absol I think it would be yeah for men and women rank for men and women because in some ways if men do we kind of praise them don't we if women do were like hmm maybe she's not qualified exactly but then if she does then then she's too serious it's like what anyway you've given me a great Court for the next time and being her and in an interview I'm looking into the bag right next question at the back here hi I lose one thing when I was reading Americana that really stood out to me was them and I don't really picture name but a family I can't see him alone her attitude towards mental health and how she believed that she couldn't have mental health because it was like for white people and things and I was just wondering do you feel that I had to choose towards mental health in Nigeria are improving and what could be done to to improve them and countries like Nigeria yes I mean that I think that's very perceptive because in some ways I it was deliberate I I was I wanted that to start a conversation I wanted to I find ways in my fiction to sneak in a little bit of preaching as whenever I can and mental health depression in particular is something I feel very strongly about mostly because I suffer from depression and I think it's important to demystify it I think particularly for people who are creative it's such a part of life and and in Nigeria there is no space to talk about that there's no language for it and people will dismiss it as though that's what happens to white people and you know people say that but then you're looking around and you realize you know one in every five Nigerians walking the streets clearly it needs to needs help and so yes I'm I think it's changing ever so slightly I am I teach a workshop in Lagos every and every year now in the past few years I I have a section on talking about depression I'm like let's just let our hair down and just know that it's normal and that it's that you know asking for help seeking help doesn't make you weak actually actually it's a sign of strength wanting to be better so I think it's changing slightly but I think it's not just Nigeria though I think that there's in general a stigma attached to mental health issues everywhere I'm going to guess without having read much about mental health in Scotland that that is probably true here too and and I think it's important to demystify it I think it's important to to make it ordinary because that's the way people will get help and and again in many ways like feminism will be happier if mental health were seen as normal and if people who seem you know if people sort of spoke about him more so I was hoping to do that with America and I I think it did happen a bit I think that there people who had conversations about it because of the book so that made me happy ok gentleman over here thank you I was in Nigeria between 1959 1966 and her marvellous time there my question is during that time there were very few female politicians has the system changed no I I also have to say that it's it's both surprising and refreshing to hear marvelous in Nigeria and the same sentence coming from from a foreigner that usually doesn't happen so where in Nigeria were you Oh anybody at the University it's I mean 1960 it's changed a bit it has changed what what I would like to see more of I think is it is more we don't have we don't have any woman we don't have a female governor and the way that named you that Nigerian the political structure in Nigeria means that governors have immense power governors are like little feudal lords and I think it's important for women to to get in there and I think it's it's a kind of space that's fiercely protected by maleness so senators the this we've had women senators we haven't had a woman governor I think things are changing a little not not fast enough for in my opinion and I think that something just egregious that we still have which is something called the women's wing of political parties which I just find ridiculous because you ever see a future for yourself and okay over here you know I had my politicians because it must it must take a lot it's dreadful because it's always you find that the situations in which you want to be your your genuine self what you can't it's a it's a wonderful wonderful thing to do and please don't take what I'm about to see has to mean anything else but I suppose if there is a frustrating at times thing about it is you you can always see what you think and you can always speak your mind and yeah because if you do then the world as they probably are this evening general is sitting ready to misrepresent or oversimplify us what you said so that means you end up self censoring a lot of the time and that can be quite difficult and you know I remember observing Hillary Clinton and thinking my god she is I mean because people who know how to talk about how she's she's such an interesting person but watching hi remember thinking she is the self censorship was so acute and I I think a lot of it was because she was a woman but also it was because she was so much aware of how being a politician she can't be too aggressive because then she's but she can't be too soft because then and she can't be too and so suddenly she just becomes a robot exactly sometimes you feel you you can't when you're damned if you do damned if you don't although there are some politicians for himself censorship may be a good thing this is yes gentleman at the back do we have a microphone all right sorry if we somebody got a microphone over here my apologies I'll go over here hello my little squeeze and I have a question about being a writer because I'm a very young girl and I read a lot of books that I share with my family but like I don't know how to like make them more interesting keep trying you know when I how old are you 11 cuz I started very young as well when I was my mother when I was sick cells doing these little chap books for my mother and she kept them so you're 11 you have a lot of time and writing writing is really rising his both inspiration and craft so you have to keep at it but you have to keep at it you have to you know just keep at it and keep reading you have to read as well and and if you keep at it it will get more interesting keep at it believe in yourself and one day you'll be sitting up here okay we've got time for one one last question up here oh sorry what listen we'll take both and quickly if you can ask your question quickly and then this one and right Joanne that you made by a famous in your book coffee hero son and I read history more out of circumstances than by choice I suppose right in the past 30 40 50 years been very selective in choosing the historical events and therefore there's a risk of a lot of prominent historical events fading into oblivion do you grieve it up and was that the case do I believe that yeah do you agree with me actually sort of no I think history I mean and the thing about it's important I don't think we can talk about history without talking about the fact that history itself is politicized I mean what stories get told and how they get told and I think in some ways it's playing out now politically in the world in the u.s. they that what is ostensibly fight about status is really a fight about how history has been told and how history is is being celebrated or not and what the stories have been that's really what it's about so yes I mean I think that is true which is why I think it's so important for for this stories to be told and particularly from certain perspectives I I think Biafra for example there's too many stories to be told very still of course the Nigerian side of this of the war which in itself is a story that should be told I think so so I suppose that's a roundabout way of saying yes I agree with you why is that because storytelling is always about power okay I'm good too I'm risk of getting into trouble for over running here but I did promise somebody up here so if you can be as brief as possible I'll first be really quick I want to touch on something that you talked about regarding racism in America and for me what was what was the most scary wasn't that we had Klan members and Nazis running around in plain sight in Virginia it was the response over here in Britain was that oh well it's their problem over there how terrible and people over here are still really bad at engaging with the fact that we do have white supremacy in Scotland in in the United Kingdom and we have the very charming Scottish Defense League parading around Edinburgh for example so my question is what the both of you do to engage with and promote anti racism in your feminism well firstly to call it out wherever and whenever you find it I don't think we should be complacent about circumstances in our own country and I do think overall Scotland is a a welcoming tolerant place that celebrates diversity but that's not to say there aren't resis among us and we must call it out and we must call it out you know internationally I've you know had some criticism as First Minister for being so explicit in my criticism of Donald Trump but there are some things that are so fundamental human values you can't have a diplomatic silence I you know I've always enjoyed going to different countries and observing the the ways that the local manifestation of racism it's just always interesting to me and also observing the ways in which people tell themselves stories about how the racism it really isn't there and I remember in Germany where because of their history which is very interesting that even the language isn't there so you can't say race because of the history and so there are lot of black Germans who were in the audience at my event and they were just furious because they said you know we can't talk about our experiences and the liberal white German said but there's no racism in Germany so it was really fun for me no I look I think I think that I think I think racism is is a part of I mean again because if you go back in history you know the racism that the colonialism happened it was justified by by racism as the racism was created to justify colonialism and and all of the countries that have benefited from colonialism the United Kingdom being one of course that I mean of course it was racism right for me it's about having the language talk about it but I think mostly it's also giving room to people who suffer racism to be able to articulate their experiences and not to tell them that it's not raised but it's Cookie Monster or it's the Sun or its the moon or you know that I find that that happens quite a bit and in some ways I think people just want to be heard I think people want to be heard and and that people want their experiences to be taken into account and so when I become Nicole as unofficial adviser we're going to set up there we're going to set up a storytelling yotz where Scottish people of black and Asian descent will have conversations with the white brothers and sisters and tell them the things they need to stop doing [Applause] thank you Wow well I'm sure I speak for everybody here when I say I could go on listening to you for the rest of the evening and well into tomorrow it's been a huge privilege to have you with me or not chesty [Applause] you


  1. Having grandmothers who were from Nigeria both Igbo and Yoruba Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie bring clarity to my childhood growing up in the Caribbean and now maneuvering my adult world in the US. Luv her!

  2. Don't just listen to Ngozi Chimamada, pay attention to the culture that made and raised her in Nigeria is a dying breed that needs the World's support to survive under Biafra Nation.
    Pay attention to GENOCIDE in Biafra, the spirited Americanesque High Flying Eagle ethnic group tied by the Wings to the Lead Winged Turkeys of Nigeria as they weep, fight and breath for freedom from oppression and Genocide.
    If USA ignores what's going on against Biafrans, USA has no moral value to call itself the citadel of Democracy and freedom.
    The Republican spirit that has endured in Biafra Land way before the American founding fathers reigned is being ignore in Nigeria today by USA because that's the way Britain wants it.
    You don't want them immigrating into your land, help them survive in the own land, simple and short a solution.

  3. I love Chimamanda but I was just thinking, that so many interviewers never challenge their guests and simply listen or agree with everything they say. I wonder what would happen if they challenged some of her beliefs instead of fangirling. Yes they were invited for a reason but I'd love to hear someone challenge a guest at times.

  4. I see a lot of comments here how most people miss the point completely! Mascunilinity was and is for men and about man. Femininity is however not for women, because the reason it exist is to bring about and fight for equality, something which masculinity failed to do for years. Rather, has been pushing to the opposite direction.

  5. I'm a new fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Achidie. I was just introduced to her a month ago (on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah) and I've been listening to her talks ever since. I look forward to reading her books. I love how astute, aware, sensitive, present she is. She truly knows people. What an amazing woman!

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