Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has sparked a fiery debate after publishing an article where she accuses two former writing students of exploiting her and campaigning to “cancel” her. In the three-part essay titled “It Is Obscene: A True Reflection In Three Parts”, the award-winning author speaks about social media cancel culture before touching on what happened between her and the two former students whom she took under her wing.
“When you are a public figure, people will write and say false things about you. It comes with the territory,” she says in the essay published Tuesday on her official website. “Many of those things you brush aside. Many you ignore. The people close to you advise you that silence is best. And it often is. Sometimes, though, silence makes a lie begin to take on the shimmer of truth.”
“In this age of social media, where a story travels the world in minutes, silence sometimes means that other people can hijack your story and soon, their false version becomes the defining story about you,” she says.
The author then goes on to talk about the feud between her and the two unnamed students. One of the students is presumed to be transgender. Adichie writes that she fell out with the two students in 2017 after she gave an interview where she said “trans women are trans women”.
“My feeling is that trans women are trans women,” she said during an interview with the U.K.‘s Channel 4. “I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man, with the privileges the world accords to men, and then change gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman, and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”
At the moment, it is not clear who the celebrated author is referring to in her essay, however, one of her former students, Akwaeke Emezi, took to Instagram on Wednesday to respond to the piece. “I am not going to read what home girl wrote and do like a blow-by-blow rebuttal of it, because I am not even going to read it. Because it doesn’t affect my life.
“I am just going to poke my head in, remind us that we matter, that we are important, that our worlds are f**king bigger than anything that these people can ever imagine and that we don’t ever have to be legible to them. We don’t have to be validated by them,” said Emezi, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.
Meanwhile, Adichie, in her essay, explained how the two allegedly took advantage of her status. “It is a simple story – got close to a famous person, you publicly insulted the famous person to aggrandize yourself, the famous person cut you off, you sent emails and texts that were ignored, and you then decided to go on social media to peddle falsehoods,” the Americanah author wrote.
“I knew this person had called me a murderer, I knew they were actively campaigning to ‘cancel’ me and tweeting about how I should no longer be invited to speak at events.”
All in all, Adichie believes that social media’s cancel culture inhibits young people from expressing themselves. “I have spoken to young people who tell me they are terrified to tweet anything, that they read and reread their tweets because they fear they will be attacked by their own,” she says.
“The assumption of good faith is dead. What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.”
Adichie is known across the world for many things. She has published novels and spoken on different platforms including writing, feminism and other social issues. As a writer, she has received a number of awards including the MacArthur Genius Grant, Orange Prize, the Booker Prize, and the PEN Pinter Prize, among others. She has also been recognized by different organizations as one of Africa’s prominent women and writers. She was also featured in Beyonce’s hit song Flawless and various magazines with the recent being Elle India, which called her the ‘original feminist’.
Born in 1977 to parents working at a university, Adichie started writing as soon as she could spell. It was, therefore, no surprise that she dropped out of a medical course to pursue communications and political science. Her first writings were a collection of poems called Decisions in 1997 and a play, For the Love of Biafra in 1998. She went ahead to publish Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, The Thing Around Your Neck, We should all be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.