For many, Beyonce’s track “***Flawless” was their first introduction to Nigerian author and scholar, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s voice is prominently featured in the middle of the song, proclaiming:
We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is highly accomplished in the world of literature, and African studies. She has studied at Princeton University, Harvard University, and Yale University. In 2008, she received the highly prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.
As an author, she has published several poem collections, plays, short stories, and novels, beginning with a collection of poems, Decisions, in 1997. Her first novels, Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), received critical acclaim and a number of awards from her peers, as did her collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009).
Her TEDtalk, delivered in December 2012, “We Should All Be Feminists,” was the speech sampled by Beyonce in “***Flawless.”
Although critically acclaimed in her own right, being featured on pop superstar Beyonce’s new album, thrust her name in front of a much larger audience than academic and literary circles she’s accustomed to traveling. Her third novel, Americanah, received a huge push in sales after the album feature. (Predating the Beyonce self-titled album release, Americanah was also selected as one of the “10 Best Books in 2013” by the New York Times).
Chimanda’s latest novel, Americanah, is based on her experience of being a black African at an American university. Her identity is contrasted with that of being an African-American, born and bred in the United States. She is quoted on the distinction between the two lavels and its influence on her life: “Being black – but not African-American – in America meant “that one is not burdened by America’s terrible racial history, and I think when people say to me, ‘You’re different. You’re not angry,’ in some ways it also feels that I’m being made complicit for something that I don’t want to be complicit in.”
Chimamanda has not released any official statement regarding her words being sampled in “***Flawless.”
Her current work sees her splitting her time between Nigeria and the United States, teaching, conducting speaking engagements, and facilitating writing workshops.