The celebrated novelist and essayist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who received her master of arts in African studies from Yale in 2008, will be this year’s Class Day speaker, members of the Yale College Class of 2019 have announced.
Class Day, scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, May 19, on the eve of Yale Commencement, is a celebration of the graduating Yale College class. A tradition dating to the 19th century, Class Day includes student reflections on the class’s four years at Yale, the awarding of undergraduate prizes for academic, artistic, athletic, and community accomplishments, and an address by a prominent figure. “I remember the many clever undergrads I met while at Yale and it’s an honor to know that a class of similarly clever students chose me to speak to them. I’m looking forward very much to being back on campus,” Adichie said.
Adichie was born in Enugu, Nigeria, and studied medicine at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, before moving to the United States at age 19 to continue her education on a different path. She graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in communication and political science and earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University before studying African history at Yale. She was awarded a 2005-2006 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University and a 2011-2012 fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In 2008, she received a MacArthur Fellowship for “exploring the circumstances that lead to ethnic conflict in richly imagined novels and stories inspired by events in her native Nigeria.”
In announcing Adichie’s selection as speaker, the Class Day 2019 planning committee described her as “an inspiring global citizen whose words, teaching, and social activism have had an indelible impact on the diaspora and broader contemporary culture.”
Adichie’s writings have been translated into more than 30 languages. Her first novel, “Purple Hibiscus” (2003), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; her second, “Half of a Yellow Sun”(2006), received the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her 2013 novel “Americanah” was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and named one of The New York Times’s “10 Best Books of 2013.” She has delivered two landmark TED Talks: “The Danger of A Single Story” (2009) and “We Should All Be Feminists” (2012) — the latter of which was released as a book in 2014. Her most recent book, “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,” was published in 2017.
Adichie was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2015. In 2017, Fortune magazine named her one of its 50 “World’s Greatest Leaders.” She is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She divides her time between the United States and Nigeria, where she leads an annual creative writing workshop.