December 20, 2013
Nigerian feminist literature’s crossover moment
by Christopher King
The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was already having a pretty good year—she was named one of Foreign Policy’s “Top Global Thinkers,” and her third novel, Americanah, was published to universal acclaim and included in The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2013.
Then Beyoncé blessed the world with her unannounced fifth solo album and made Adichie a pop star overnight (literally). To quote the Queen herself: “I was scrolling through videos about feminism on Youtube and I ran across this video of this incredible Nigerian author … Everything she said is exactly how I feel.”
Beyoncé and co-producers Hit-Boy and Rey Reel sampled lines from Adichie’s TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” in the track “***Flawless,” threading them along a dark trap beat (next to the Internet’s new favorite lyric, “I woke up like this”) and adding Adichie to the album’s credits as a featured contributor.
While Beyoncé set sales records, becoming the fastest-selling album in iTunes history and making Beyoncé the first female artist to debut five albums at number one on the Billboard charts, Adichie experienced her own sales bump, as Americanah climbed the iTunes charts last weekend.
Back in the tangible universe, booksellers wasted no time seizing the opportunity:
Americanah: Winner of the 2013 Beyoncé Knowles Award for Fierceness in Literature. pic.twitter.com/AJE0DRmnjM
— The Booksmith (@Booksmith) December 19, 2013
And one imagines many scenes like this one, witnessed by author Michael Silverberg, playing out all over the world:
Uptown N train, French couple, fresh copy of “Americanah” in hand. As they read the jacket, she says by way of explanation: “Beyoncé.”
— Michael Silverberg (@mbsilverberg) December 15, 2013
Move over, Oprah: The world is ready for the Beyoncé Book Club.
Christopher King is the Art Director of Melville House.