Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian novelist-cum-feminist, has penned a lengthy piece wherein she detailed her side of the story regarding her four-year feud with Akwaeke Emezi.

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Emezi, whose parents are Nigerian-Indian, has continued to earn herself several awards for her 2018 debut novel ‘Freshwater’.

Born in Umuahia and raised in Abia, Emezi identifies with the pronouns “they/them” after she removed her breasts as part of her journey to becoming gender-fluid.

Emezi had partaken in a Lagos writing workshop by Chimamanda and also described herself as a fan of the ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ author.

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The relationship between the duo, however, went south after Emezi criticised Chimamanda on social media over her unorthodox conviction about trans women.

In a 2017 interview, Chimamanda had spoken on whether or not trans women are to be considered “women”. The author had also dismissed the need to prioritise terminological inclusion while favouring an experiential view to it.

Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi

“My feeling is trans women are trans women. I think the whole problem of gender is about our experiences and how the world treats us. It’s not about how we wear our hair, whether we have a vagina or penis,” she had said.

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“If you lived in the world as a man with the privileges the world accords to men. Then you switched gender.

“It’s difficult for me to accept that we can then equate your experience with that of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman; who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.

“I’m saying this also with sort of the certainty that transgendered people should be allowed to be. Right?

“I don’t think it’s a good thing to conflate everything into one. I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans women because I don’t think that’s true.”

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Having been a trans in Nigeria, Emezi, however, reacted by referring to Chimamanda as well as JK Rowling as “transphobes” in a series of Twitter outburst where she aired her disagreement with their views on transgenders.

Chimamanda: She could’ve called but publicly insulted me in Twitter outburst

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Months after Emezi’s criticism, Chimamanda put out a three-part publication in which she denied the allegations. The multiple award-winning novelist also argued that her critics were in the know of her opinion on the matter.

She aired her displeasure with Emezi while sharing emails she got from a critic who sought to mend the cracks.

“I welcomed her into my life. I rarely do this because my experiences with young Nigerians left me wary of people who are calculating and insincere and want to use me only as an opportunity,” she wrote of one of her critics.

“But she was a bright young Nigerian feminist and I thought that was worth making an exception. She spent time in my Lagos home. We had long conversations. I was a support-giver, counsellor, comforter.

“Then I gave an interview in March 2017, the larger point of which was to say we should be able to acknowledge difference while being fully inclusive, that in fact, the whole premise of inclusiveness is a difference.

“I was told she went on social media and insulted me. This woman knows me enough to know I support the rights of trans people and all marginalized people. That I have always been fiercely supportive of difference, in general.

“And that I’m a person who reads, thinks, and forms my opinion in a carefully considered way. Of course, she could very well have had concerns with the interview. That is fair enough. But I had a personal relationship with her.”

Chimamanda also accused Emezi of lying “manipulatively” in a manner that exposed her to “reputational damage”.

The author, who never mentioned Emezi’s name, stated that the subject had included her (Chimamanda’s) name in the biography of her book despite reacting “viscerally” to being referred to in the news as Chimamanda’s protege.

 

Chimamanda said she, as a result, sought to remove her name in Emezi’s book bio as she used it without consent.

She said that this got her further attacks where her parents’ death was dubbed a punishment for her “transphobia”.

As of the time of this report, the parties involved had yet to react to Chimamanda’s publication.

Read Chimamanda’s full account here.



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