In her article entitled “Coming of Age: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the Voice of the Third Generation,” Heather Hewett makes the argument that Adichie is both representative of the “third generation” of Nigerian authors and of black women authors around the world. The “third generation” is characterized by their desire to write about the modern world, rather than the desire to show the world the traditional ways of African people. Hewett quotes Helon Habila, another third generation author who said of the previous figures in Nigerian literature:

“They made the way for us, the younger generation to follow. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to keep writing in the same tradition that they wrote in. If you have read my bood, you will see it is totally different from [Achebe’s] Things Fall Apart. I try to avoid that… I don’t know what to call it- that exotic stuff. I want to write about the reality that is happening now. The use of myth and legend and history was very traditional. Times have changed” (77).

Hewett believes that Adichie is representative of more than just the third generation of Nigerians. She believes that Adichie is part of a larger group of black women around the world who are just emerging in the literary arena. Adichie’s spent time in America to attend college. She was influenced by American authors Maya Angelou and Sapphire. Before the 1980’s, there wasn’t really any writing done by black women. Toyin Adewale is famous for posing the question: “Where are my literary foremothers and sisters?” (88).

I tend to agree with the author that most of Adichie’s work straddles both genres/generations. I think Half of a Yellow Sun is more indicative of the third generation Nigerian novel, “acknowledging cultural complexity” (76), describing a post-colonial way of life, and juxtaposing old traditions with more western ideals. At the same time, I definitely see a similarity between Adichie’s work and that of the revolutionary black female writers of the West. The blunt discussion of taboo topics such as rape, sex, and violence against women definitely bring to mind the works of Angelou and Sapphire (although this might be more applicable to Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus than Half of a Yellow Sun). What do you guys think? Does Half of a Yellow Sun straddle two genres, or does the discussion of sex and women’s issues merely add to the universiality of the work? Do you think the fact that Adichie went to school in America make her writing more Western/less Nigerian than if she had not? Does that matter for “third generation” writers?


About audreyvorhees

Freshman at American University, studying International Development in sub-Saharan Africa, love travelling and African languages.

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