“We are, I think it’s fair to say, feminists”, Nicola Sturgeon says as she introduces Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, kicking off an inspiring, insightful hour covering topics from politics, to race, to shoes, to censorship and to the difficulties of navigating the world as a woman.
Sturgeon discusses Adichie’s two non-fiction essay collections first, We Should All Be Feminists (2014) and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017).
For Adichie, feminism has never been about ideology. She is a feminist because she watches the world. “There are certain women I just can’t support”, she says to a wry smile from Sturgeon and great applause. It feels particularly clear in 2017 that a woman in power who doesn’t seek to empower other women isn’t actually ‘a win’.
Both women were equally honoured to be in discussion with one another, with Adichie describing herself as a Sturgeon fan-girl and asking a question of her own – how did Sturgeon find time to read? “Reading is such an essential part of my wellbeing,” she responds. “I couldn’t function without it.”
Sturgeon touched on Adichie’s Bailey’s prize winning Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) and cited Americanah (2013) as one of her favourite books. Adichie spoke on the themes of the book, particularly race in America. Similarly to the protagonist of Americanah, Ifemelu, Adichie learned she was black when she went to the US. She didn’t want to identify as black during her first year in America, and points out that if it was a benign thing, she wouldn’t have felt this way. She’s unsure of how much of protagonist Ifemelu is based on herself, but is sure that she likes her a lot.
The discussion of self-censorship was interesting; Adichie’s words are only representative of her own views, where Sturgeon is in a different position. Adichie said “As you get older, your skin starts to feel your own. You look in the bag of fucks to give, and it’s empty”, giving me hope for the future.
The event turned to questions and where the topics concerned feminism, politics and race, I found myself thinking “lets not fuck this up, team”. Wonderfully, all of the questions were actually questions, not statements, and incredibly relevant and interesting ones.
Adichie gave the following advice to an eleven year old writer – “Writing is both an inspiration and a craft. You need to keep at it and keep reading.”
When asked about mental health in Nigeria and why she felt it was important to include characters who experience depression in her own fiction, Adichie spoke of her own experiences with mental health and said “For many creative people depression is part of life. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it’s a sign of strength.”
The number of young women in the audience made this event even more important, because if she can see it, she can be it. Adichie and Sturgeons rapport, candidness and intelligence made this an incredible event, only made better by some thoughtful questions from the audience.