Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie & Nicola Sturgeon @ EIBF

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in discussion at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Article by Katie Goh | 29 Aug 2017
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nicola Sturgeon are self-confessed fangirls. Before launching into an in-depth conversation spanning politics, feminism, race, and writing, Sturgeon admits that she is a major Adichie fangirl – of her writing, her activism, and her shoes. Adichie is equally chuffed and it’s clear that her appearance at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is not to promote new work, but for the chance to share a stage and conversation with Scotland’s first minister.  

While the conversation pivots around the women’s shared interests, particularly feminism and the current political climate, as they share personal anecdotes of experienced sexism in Scotland, Nigeria, and America, the conversation between the two veteran public speakers remains loose and easy. Sturgeon is as eager as an audience member when asking Adichie detailed questions about Americanah, one of her favourite novels, while Adichie requests an explanation of British politics from Sturgeon. Scotland’s First Minister responds that Adichie likely knows just as much as she does, to delighted laughter from the audience.

When Americanah was published in 2013, it became commonly known as the “hair book” as Adichie was emphatic that hair, fashion, and pop culture were as equally important topics as politics or philosophy. On stage, Adichie repeats her stance as she emphasises the “totality” of people – that a feminist’s interest in hair and cosmetics does not detract from her politics. Both Adichie and Sturgeon share the staunch belief that feminism is not a theory, but is something to be actively practiced. While politics allows Sturgeon to turn ideas into material reality, Adichie’s latest non-fiction offering – Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – is a practical guide for raising a daughter as a feminist in the form of a letter to a friend.

During the audience Q&A, Adichie offers advice to a star-struck 11-year-old girl about improving as a writer – that writing is equally inspiration and craft, and nothing without hard work. Edinburgh International Book Festival is not a place that regularly gives standing ovations, so when Adichie and Sturgeon receive one as they walk offstage you know that Adichie may well be contemporary literature’s biggest rock star. She was certainly the Festival’s.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nicola Sturgeon appeared at Edinburgh International Book Festival on 26 Aug