Adichie discusses her latest novel Americanah, the politics of hair, her novel’s title and Nigeria as home. The late Achebe hailed her as “endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers.”
Adichie at Topping & Co, Bath. 8th April 2013.
Adichie at Topping & Co, Bath. 8th April 2013.

Adichie stands gracefully smiling , amongst higgedly-piggedly, wooden book shelves, with her audience precariously arranged on top of one another in the corners between the books (books come out triumphant, always, in Toppings – you can hide in the shelves, with your complimentary cup of tea, particularly the poetry section snuck around at the back). Her hair is natural and plaited in small cornrows, arranged in a large ponytail, and I mention her hair because Americanah is fixated with it. Adichie has prompted a brilliant conversation about the politics of hair. This kicked off the discussion after she had read from passages of this her newest novel, confidently bashful over her first time reading from it, and which follows on from the triumphant success of Half of a Yellow Sun, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. She is exuberant as she advises us to search ‘natural hair styling’ on YouTube, how relaxing hair was a rite of passage for her leaving school and advises a white lady with remarkably curly hair that she should try some African hair-styling techniques. One woman is surprised that so much time should have been given to hair in the novel and also so much time by ‘intelligent journalists’ in their reviews. Adichie came back with the indirect response that whole novels have been written on baseball, would it be so remarkable that ‘intelligent journalists’ remarked upon that? And she makes hilarious comments about afros and shea butter and yes, she knows all about colouring, blow dries and keratin serums too. She is evidently proud of her natural hair, so rare she says, and most prominent now in Nigeria with returnees. In hairdressers, she’ll be given an odd look and asked straight away whether she wants them to get the relaxers. With the amount of time that goes into our hair each day and my relative lack in knowledge of styling African hair, I’m glad to have been both amused and a little more informed…