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When Beyoncé dropped her surprise album on December 13th, without any public relations preparation, her fans went wild. I was one of those fans. It was a complete surprise to all of us to receive not only a packed album of solid jams but also 17 music videos. It was a big day in the pop culture music scene. The album is powerful and Queen B reigns on each song. It is her song ***Flawless that has inspired my recent obsession with the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
On ***Flawless, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s voice is heard in between Beyoncé’s singing. Adichie comes forth on the speakers and says:
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 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 see 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: a person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
Needless to say, I quickly became intrigued and wanted to listen to, and read, everything that Adichie was involved in. Part of the theological work of feminist studies is telling stories of women and raising opportunities for women to tell their stories. So while Sharon V. Betcher’s book Spirit and the Politics of Disablement, Catherine Keller’s Face of the Deep, and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble are on my bedside table you will also find novels by women next to these weighty theological/philosophical books. One of these stories is Adichie’s novel Americanah.
Americanah is a brilliant novel that tells the story of a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, and her studies at Princeton. The novel is about race, place, gender, America, Nigeria, language, and identity. Adiche does an incredible job at helping readers understand that there is no such thing as a single story. Her characters are complex. Her writing is beautiful. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a well-crafted novel. I am currently working through her book with a group of people over the next few months. We are allowing ourselves to settle into her book while we also research more about who Adichie is and her writings.
In Mary McClintock Fulkerson’s essay, The Imago Dei and Reformed Logic for Feminist/Womanist Critique*, she writes that “the topic of the imago Dei is in many respects at the heart of feminist theology. It refers to the claim that however different and alienated from God we are, human beings bear some likeness to the divine.” When we honor stories of women around the world we are invited to expand our understanding of who God is and the ways God works in this world.
I highly recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. Her book was suggested as one of the 10 books released by black women in 2013 that should be read. I’ve included a couple of her TED talks below so you can also hear how brilliant she is.
*Essay taken from Feminist and Womanist Essays in Reformed Dogmatics.
Thank you for sharing the words of this articulate woman. Many of us suffer from the confinements of the "single story" of Africa. She is graceful and gracious in her correction.