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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Image from PORT.

There’s been a long conversation on writers being mothers—whether it makes them less efficient writers, the extent to which it ushers them onto a new creative plane. There have been books by mothers on their relationship to motherhood: South African writer Megan Ross’ poetry collection Milk Fever (2017) and Canadian novelist Sheila Heti’s Motherhood (2017) come to mind.

In an interview with Vulture‘s David Marchese, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, mother to a two-year-old daughter, discusses how motherhood feeds art and why she didn’t think she would make a good mother. Plus a bit on her next novel.

Here is an excerpt from the interview.

INTERVIEWER

Were you worried about what having a child would mean for your art?

CNA

Yes. I used to think I wouldn’t be a good mother because I was so dedicated to my art. I said to myself, I have nephews and nieces who I adore, and I helped raise them, so those will be my children. That’s what I thought for a long time, because I felt that I couldn’t be true to both my art and my child.

INTERVIEWER

What changed?

CNA

Getting older. I like to joke and say that you’re ready [to have a child] when your body isn’t ready, and when your body is ready, you’re not mentally ready. I guess you have the best eggs when you’re, like, 22, but at 22 you don’t even know yourself. Then when you’re 38 and know yourself, your eggs are not the best quality. Anyway, we’ll talk about eggs another time. But my baby happened, and it’s important to talk honestly about this, because having her changed a lot. Having a child gets in the way of writing. It does. You can’t own your time the way you used to. But the other thing that motherhood does — and I kind of feel sorry for men that they can’t have this — is open up a new emotional plane that can feed your art.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have a current idea for a new novel?

CNA

Yes, but maybe not.

INTERVIEWER

That’s a coy answer.

CNA

I might be doing some research for it. Maybe not.

INTERVIEWER

I guess we’ll have to see how that next novel — whatever it may be — turns out to know if your ideas about motherhood and creativity hold true.

CNA

He said with a veiled threat. I really do think motherhood feeds art. How that will be executed is another question. But having access to the emotional plane that comes with birthing a child: I can see the world through her eyes and notice things that I wouldn’t have noticed without her. I’ve lost out on time, but I’ve gained quite richly in other ways. At least that’s the theory I’m working with now.

Read the full interview on Vulture.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, literary journalist, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Transition, and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, the boy just Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Chimamanda on Her Next Novel, How Motherhood Feeds Art, and Why She Didn’t Think She Would Be a Good Mother” Subscribe

  1. Sim 2018/07/10 at 05:13 #

    I really really hope she IS writing another book. On that note, I can’t wait. I have no doubt that it’ll be amazing.

    A queen, I stan <3

Leave a Reply

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.

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