And while many of the characters in her novels and short stories are defined by their religious affiliations, she rejects the idea that she uses religion as a tool: "I write about religion because I am interested it – having grown up Catholic, coming from a country that is very religious, watching a world in which religion plays a huge role. But whether it is a ‘tool’ in my writing or whether it has any ‘significance’ in my work I really can’t say and have no interest in."
Similarly, when asked whether one of the functions of fiction is to provide a critique of society, she is adamant that she doesn’t "think of fiction as having a ‘function,’ I think of fiction – and of story-telling – as simply being essential for human beings."
The only subject she seems prepared to opine on is feminism. Unusually for such a popular author, Adichie describes herself as a “happy feminist” and she is eloquent about the importance of feminism in contemporary society. "Feminism, as I understand it, is simply the idea that, while we acknowledge the biological differences between men and women, we must never use those differences to justify or anchor access to social, economic or political privileges. In other words, men and woman should have equal access. It hasn’t happened yet, either in the Western and non-Western worlds." So, what advice does she have for feminist writers? "They should deal with feminist issues by writing honestly about the world, which I feel consists of gender inequities." But the character Kainene in Half of a Yellow Sun seems to epitomize an active feminism: financially and emotionally independent, she courageously decides to trade across enemy lines. In writing her, Adichie seems to be leading by example.
Which brings me back to Adichie’s audience. If the attendance at the various publicity events is anything to go by, it consists almost entirely of women – from sixth-formers reading Half of a Yellow Sun for school to middle-aged Nigerian ladies who remember the ravages of the Biafran war the novel depicts. Clearly, Adichie’s brand of story-telling and feminism resonates with them. Enough to bring them out in huge numbers – to see a writer who, when asked whether she has any obligation to entertain, educate or challenge her readers, answers with a crisp and simple ‘No’.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s story ’My American Jon’ is included in The Mechanics’ Institute Review: 6.