Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith Tackle Feminism and Race!

As part of the New York Public Library’s podcast, writers Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi and Zadie Smith had an in-depth and inspiring conversation about feminism, race and writing.

Ngozi, author of the critically-acclaimed Americanah, describes it as her “fuck-you book” because it was about confident and strong women, which is what she always wanted to write about.

For all you writers out there, Adichie offered some words of wisdom:

“Clarity’s important to me. I forget who said that ‘Prose should be as clear as a window pane.’ I’m very much in that school, and it’s the kind of fiction I like to read. The kind of writing that I like to read is writing that is clear. I think it’s very easy to confuse something that’s badly written as something that’s somehow deep. If something is incomprehensible and the sentences are bad, we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh that’s really deep.’ It’s not the kind of fiction I like to read, so I guess maybe when I’m editing I’m thinking about that. I’m thinking that the sentences I really admire are sentences that are lucid.”

Ngozi also discusses how continental Africans interpret race differently from Black Americans:

“In Nigeria, people will say ‘sister,’ but they don’t mean it racially, so I think it’s the understanding that it’s racial that for me and for many immigrants from West Africa, it’s just a little off-putting. It’s a little disorienting because you don’t quite get it. And I think it also has to be said that you very quickly realize that you’re expected to play ‘The Good Black’ because you’re not African-American; therefore, you’re ‘The Good Black.’ White people will say, ‘Oh, but you’re different!’ and you’re not supposed to be, instead of being furious, because that’s really an insult, you’re supposed to be happy… There are many Nigerians who don’t get it. There are also many Nigerian immigrants who are raising children here, children who are very affected by race because America is a society that’s steeped in race whether we like it or not, but somehow the parents are oblivious. It’s one of the things I wanted to explore in the novel. They’re just completely oblivious, so the kid is the only black kid in an all-white school in Maine and the parent thinks it doesn’t matter.”

Listen to the entire hour-long interview now!

Brittney Fennell

Brittney Fennell

Brittney is the Associate Editor of Jawbreaker and a writer who has goals to disrupt culture in ways unseen.