Nigerian novelist and outspoken feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has an intensely devoted following, which famously includes Beyonce. The “Americanah” author’s critical acclaim and public veneration didn’t happen as a result of Adichie trying to appeal to the masses by presenting a constructed version of herself in her texts. Quite the opposite. Adichie didn’t worry about being “likable” and, in a speech at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards, called the societal pressure for girls and women to conform to that ideal “bullshit,” especially since “the world is such a wonderful, diverse, multi-faceted place that there’s somebody who’s going to like you.” “You don’t have to [change] yourself,” she asserted.
Adichie delivered these words of encouragement while being recognized as a Groundbreaker Honoree. Girls Write Now is a New York-based nonprofit that focuses on community-building, mentoring and empowering women through writing. When accepting her award at the ceremony, Adichie explained that the honor was especially meaningful because she so respects and admires the work the organization does.
Her advice, boiled down to its essence, was simply for girls aspiring to write to be their true, flawed selves. To write as themselves and to live as themselves, despite unrelenting voices telling them to do and be otherwise. Adichie said:
think that what our society teaches young girls, and I think it’s also
something that’s quite difficult for even older women and self-professed
feminists to shrug off, is that idea that likability is an essential part of
you, of the space you occupy in the world, that you’re supposed to twist
yourself into shapes to make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to hold
back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy, because you
have to be likable.
I say that’s bullshit.
what I want to say to young girls is forget about likability. If you start
thinking about being likable, you are not going to tell your story honestly,
because you are going to be so concerned with not offending, and that’s going
to ruin your story.”
We’re hopeful that it won’t be too long before we see an adaptation of “Americanah” on the big screen. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has optioned Adichie’s exquisitely intelligent, wry, and heartwrenching trans-Atlantic love story, which was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review.