Two years ago, I was heartened when another young Nigerian writer, Helon Habila won the Caine Prize, the so-called African Booker. I was excited to meet Helon and glad to learn that he had won a publishing contract for his book. Again, I was less than satisfied by the attention generated in the UK by Waiting for an Angel, Helon's lyrical, fictional account of the life of a young Nigerian journalist under the military dictatorship in Nigeria in the mid to late nineties. Reading the book, I relived the memories of the hopes and fears and the exhilaration of those days. Helon has gone on to a writing fellowship at the University of East Anglia and has been on several tours and conference appearances since and I am sure that greater things will come from him. His doggedness and gift have earned him the support he needs to become one of the major voices of contemporary Nigerian literature."I am fascinated by the power of religion. I grew
As I celebrated the publication of Helon's and Ike's books and the recognition they were garnering for contemporary Nigerian literature, I had no idea that the next voice to appear on stage would be the voice of one whom for me, is literally the girl next door.
When I was five, my family moved into a large house on the Marguerite Cartwright Avenue on the Nsukka campus of the University of Nigeria. That house, number 307, was to be where I spent the greatest part of my growing up years, and for a long time, the word "home" conjured up for me the image of that house on the tree-lined avenue named after an obscure American academic who had played a pivotal role in the founding of the University of Nigeria.
About a year after we moved in, there was a flurry of excitement in the house next door which had lain unoccupied for a while...finally, we were to have neighbours; The famed writer, Chinua Achebe was to be our new neighbour.
After the Achebes moved out, our new neighbours were to be the Deputy Vice Chancellor's family - the Adichies. I knew vaguely the two elder daughters, Uche and Rosemary, beautiful, glamorous and years ahead of me, they were famed for their beauty and intellect and were both undergraduates, the one in pharmacy, the other in medicine. I also knew their brother Chuks, and even more vaguely, I knew that there were a few more younger children: Ngozi Chimamanda, Okey and Kene, the last three of the Adichie children.
up Catholic, still am, although I am what
may be called a Liberal Catholic,
which is that I believe in Lourdes but also
think that contraception is a good thing."
Even though I was away at boarding school, and later medical school, I soon began to hear about the academic exploits of little Ngozi - how she had topped her year in the Junior School examinations, setting a record, how she had again topped her year in the Senior School examinations, and finally how she had published a collection of poems, barely out of secondary school. I had also heard how she would write plays while still in primary school for her classmates to stage. It was at about this time I had my first real conversation with her - my brother who was closer to her in age had told her that I had literary interests as well - and she had come over to chat. I was struck by her maturity and the early promise of her work. She soon gained admission into the University of Nigeria earning a place on the highly competitive Medicine course and then switching after a year to Pharmacy. Somewhere along the line, she published her first play "For the Love of Biafra" which received good reviews in the local press.