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Chimamanda Adichie is officially Africa’s literary queen of controversy. Remember her well-publicized beef against African women who relaxe their hair or carry straight weaves? This time, she has become the talk of African twitterville after dissing the Caine Prize and dismissing the shortlisted stories in an interview with American graduate student and blogger Aaron Bady. There were also comments about how her reference to Nigerian writer, Elnathan John, as “one of my boys” was condescending and disrespectful. Here is the offending quote:

Elnathan was one of my boys in my workshop. But what’s all this over-privileging of the Caine Prize, anyway? I don’t want to talk about the Caine Prize, really. I suppose it’s a good thing, but for me it’s not the arbiter of the best fiction in Africa. It’s never been. I know that Chinelo is on the short list, too. But I haven’t even read the stories—I’m just not very interested. I don’t go to the Caine Prize to look for the best in African fiction…I go to my mailbox, where my workshop people send me their stories. I could give you a list of ten—mostly in Nigeria—writers who I think are very good. They’re not on the Caine Prize short list….Who’s the other Nigerian on the short list? There’s Chinelo and Elnathan but I don’t know who the others are.

—Read full interview HERE.

Of all the reactions to Adichie’s statement, Abubakar Ibrahim’s tweets seem the most interesting to me. It’s harsh but also clearly comes from a place of honesty. The fact that he is one of the shortlistees of the 2013 Caine Prize meant that Adichie’s statement came across as a personal attack.




What do you think after reading the interview and Ibrahim’s tweets? Is the anger towards Adichie justified? Or has she been completely misunderstood?

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

16 Responses to “African Literary Feud | Adichie: The Best African Fiction Is in My Mailbox | Ibrahim: “Go Fuck Yourself, Chimamanda”” Subscribe

  1. girl 2013/07/15 at 13:42 #

    Wow the anger was definitely justified. That was amazing arrogant of Chimamanda.

  2. Ifey 2013/07/15 at 16:54 #

    Adichie is only having a diva’s attitude because writing (literary fiction) is now commercialised. In the era, when writers were paupers and the monied prizes were few and far in between, writing seemed more of a calling than a vocation ‘everyone’ is called to. Adichie was a 2002 shorlisted writer of the Caine prize, so that implies once upon a time she reckoned with it. If Elnathan is her ‘boy’, then I see no reason why she’d strongly refute being Achebe’s girl. She even took pains to elaborate how many times she met Achebe and how impersonal their contact was, more like she was trying to prove she just started writing, out of the blue and had never read Achebe all her life. If she could take such pains to remove herself from under the shadow (a laudable one, in my opinion) of Achebe, why is she so fast to draw another one under her?
    So, I may attend one of her ‘celebrated’ workshops, but that doesn’t make me her girl! Because writing workshops & MFAs may widen your exposure & outlook but they don’t teach you how to write! In fact they may ensconce u in a formula.

  3. Kunbi | Aisle Perfect 2013/07/15 at 17:30 #

    Definitely justified. Adichie’s arrogance is so blatant. I’m over her *as I run to read Americanah*

  4. Aderonke 2013/07/15 at 18:03 #

    Lol she forgot Abubakar’s name in the interview… e dey pain well well! Lol

  5. Ifey 2013/07/15 at 18:15 #

    I forgot to mention that Abukakar’s “f-worded’ reply is so not classy. He could have expressed his grievance in a better way. I love Elnathan’s creative response.

  6. tosin 2013/07/15 at 19:33 #

    CA should grow disappointed.Wow.

  7. Nana Fredua-Agyeman 2013/07/16 at 22:09 #

    The fact is that the Caine has cheapened its prize. The winners for sometime now won with poor stories that fit a particular style. Anyone who has read the winners from Osondu’s time to NoViolet will know what the prize has become.

    I didn’t waste my time to read this year’s shortlist. Besides, it’s always better to state your opinion and not to insult. As a writer you shall face worst criticisms. If you cannot take this, what can you take. We may not all agree… for instance, I believe the Caine Prize is a sham and have a template. You may disagree… but there is no need for such insults

  8. Okezie 2013/07/17 at 21:48 #

    I warned and wrote the literary community about the dangers of Adichie months ago. I hope now more people will believe me.

  9. udoka 2013/07/19 at 19:09 #

    okezie, believe you for what ?>>>you are not funny…plus, well, The Miracle is not so Brilliant, or is the thing Abubakar wrote!

  10. AB 2013/07/22 at 06:09 #

    For the record, Chimamanda did not wage war against women with relaxed hair or weaves. I don’t understand how anyone could misinterpret that interview.

  11. Anna Julia Cooper 2013/07/22 at 20:29 #

    What a cool glass of water it is to drink reading this article and knowing that I ain’t alone in my thinking about this author!

    I felt this way when she said that she wanted to ban Cinderella and other Western stories (do those Western stories automatically include those of the voluntary and involuntary African Diaspora?) and then wanted to “start so many revolutions”.

    I was so surprised to her the woman who preaches the dangers of single story to preach the styles of a single texture to Black women! The health of our hair and mind is what is important….more protective hair styling would have been a better message.

    I have to say that it seems that she is looking to be written down as a literary icon that has moved mountains and written mountains of books.

    Toni Morrison said that it was Chinua Achebe and Bessie Head who gave her the courage to write about her Blackness. How could Adichie do the same by banning Cinderella and outlawing relaxing all the while breathing down the neck of Chinua Achebe’s literary place in the universe?

  12. Putsch 2013/09/22 at 17:40 #

    Chimamanda was just voicing an opinion. But her writing has rather obvious weaknesses. In Americanah, she went over the top with her literary style. She used the phrase “so thick it drank two containers of relaxer” which is effective in painting a true picture in the reader’s mind. But a phrase in the same paragraph: “sprang free and full flowing down her back like a celebration” is awkward. Hair can spring but how can hair be compared to a celebration? Does a celebration flow? It sounds contrived. Also, the mixed metaphors in the above phrases hinder clarity.


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    […] You’ll recall that one of the biggest controversies in the African literary community involved Chimamanda Adichie and Nigerian blogger, Elnathan John. (click here if you missed it.) […]

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