Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie seems to be having a great year.
She emerges winner in the hotly contested inaugural “One Book, One New York” contest. New Yorkers have selected Americanah for a city-wide book reading event. New Yorkers have been asked to pick up copies of the book, read it, and talk about it in book clubs, private gatherings, and community events. The Mayor of the city is also planning a few events where New Yorkers will have a chance to share their thoughts on the novel.
The initiative was organized by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin in collaboration with Buzzfeed. The aim is to get all New Yorkers focused on discussing one book at the same time to foster unity in the literary community.
“This is the first year we’ve done this program,” Menin said. “We had close to 50,000 votes, and we are delighted with the enthusiasm. We are really trying to engage New Yorkers and have a common discussion.”
Americanah was nominated by actress Bebe Neuwirth and competed against such contemporary classics as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, A Tree Grows in Brookylyn by Betty Smith and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Americanah, for the minute percentage of the world who haven’t read that fantastic work of art yet, is the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, two Nigerian lovebirds who, by circumstance, find themselves in America and England respectively, both encountering race, poverty, love, loss, happiness, pain and most importantly, the immigrant factor, in the process.
While commenting on her victory, Adichie did not hold back her excitement. here is what she said:
Obviously, to get any kind of recognition is just lovely, but this is really, really lovely, and I think it’s because I have so much respect for the other books, and I think they are just really fantastic books. When you’re in good company, it’s a good thing.
I think there’s also a sense in which, when I was writing Americanah … obviously I hoped it would do well, but I really didn’t think it would. And so to have all this recognition happen brings an extra-special feeling of, really, quite simply, of joy. It just makes me happy.
[New Yorkers reading my book simultaneously] is like the idea of a village gathering under a tree in the moonlight and telling their stories, and everybody has an opinion about the story.
I like to think that one of the many things that literature can do is that it gives us entry into subjects that might be difficult to talk about. Or not even just necessarily difficult, just that might be uncomfortable, or that we might overlook. So I think the city coming together around literature is … just something about reminding people, reminding ourselves, about our collective humanity. An example from Americanah would be that it no longer becomes abstract concepts of immigration, race, home ― it becomes about characters’ lives. I think in talking about these things through story, there’s a sense in which we humanize these ideas and ultimately we humanize our own lives and our own concerns.
Congratulations to Adichie! For the next few weeks, New Yorkers will be reading and reflecting on the beauty and complexities of a Nigerian story. How cool is that!
Facebook link image via Buzzfeed