Dinaw Mengestu and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have a lot in common. Both have received $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants— Mengestu in 2012, Adichie in 2008. Both were born in Africa— Mengestu in Ethiopia, Adichie in Nigeria. And both were named among the New Yorker’s 20 best writers under 40.
Adichie often gets compared to her country’s literary patriarch, Chinua Achebe—the fact that she grew up in a house where he once lived may be her most repeated biographical detail. Less well known is that the 35-year-old splits her time between Nigeria and Columbia, Maryland. Adichie won the prestigious Orange Prize in 2007 for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun—about the civil war that ravaged her country in the late ’60s. Her next, Americanah, about Nigerian immigrants in the US, is due in May.
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