Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a memoir about the sudden death of her father in lockdown last year. Notes on Grief, by the Orange prize-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, will be published on 11 May. Her UK publisher 4th Estate described it as “a timely and deeply personal … work of meditation, remembrance and hope”.
Adichie’s father, James Nwoye Adichie, died unexpectedly from complications of kidney failure last summer. He was in Nigeria, while his daughter was in the US. The author detailed his death, and her response to it, in an essay for the New Yorker in September, writing of how her four-year-old daughter re-enacts how she responded to the news: “She gets down on her knees to demonstrate, her small clenched fist rising and falling, and her mimicry makes me see myself as I was, utterly unravelling, screaming and pounding the floor.”
Adichie has built on the essay to explore the nature of collective grief during the pandemic, of “being one of the millions of people grieving, about the familial and cultural dimensions of grief, and also about the loneliness and anger that accompany it”. The book will also tell her father’s life story, from his survival of the Biafran war to his career as a statistics professor, painting a portrait of “a remarkable man of kindness and charm”.
In an interview with the Guardian last November, Adichie described her father as “the loveliest man” and said that many of his stories from the Biafran war fed into Half of a Yellow Sun. “I really do feel that I’ve been remade,” she said of losing him. “I feel that I’ve been remade by grief.”
4th Estate editor Nick Pearson said: “Notes on Grief is a moving tribute to the father Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie loved fiercely and whose sudden death devastated her. It will be treasured by readers for the light it sheds on the pain of navigating the loss of someone we love.”