NYTimes Review of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘My Madness Will Now Bare Itself’

Jamiel Law | New York Times

NOTES ON GRIEF | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | BUY BOOK

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

June 2020 marked the 40th anniversary of my father’s death. In the months leading up to then I’d plotted ritualistic ways I might mark such loss. But by the time the anniversary arrived, more than 380,000 were dead from Covid. That grief of mine, no longer singular, was subsumed in the collective wail. That is, until Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s visceral exploration of her own father’s unexpected death that month. In 30 short sections, “Notes on Grief” lays a path by which we might mourn our individual traumas among the aggregate suffering of this harrowing time. Our guide, Adichie, is uncloaked, full of “wretched, roaring rage,” teaching us within the space of this work how to gather our disparate selves and navigate the still-raging pandemic. In doing this, she tells a global story of this moment, while mapping how her writerly voice, in particular, came to be.

“Enemies beware,” Adichie writes. “The worst has happened. My father is gone. My madness will now bare itself.”

As many of our days do now, her narrative begins with a Zoom call — in Adichie’s case, with her five siblings and their parents, all spread out across America, England and Nigeria. … continued


From the globally acclaimed, best-selling novelist and author of We Should All Be Feminists, a timely and deeply personal account of the loss of her father.

Notes on Grief is an exquisite work of meditation, remembrance, and hope, written in the wake of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s beloved father’s death in the summer of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world, and kept Adichie and her family members separated from one another, her father succumbed unexpectedly to complications of kidney failure.

In this extended essay, which originated in a New Yorker piece, Adichie shares how this loss shook her to her core. She writes about being one of the millions of people grieving this year; about the familial and cultural dimensions of grief and also about the loneliness and anger that are unavoidable in it. With signature precision of language, and glittering, devastating detail on the page–and never without touches of rich, honest humor–Adichie weaves together her own experience of her father’s death with threads of his life story, from his remarkable survival during the Biafran war, through a long career as a statistics professor, into the days of the pandemic in which he’d stay connected with his children and grandchildren over video chat from the family home in Abba, Nigeria. In the compact format of We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, Adichie delivers a gem of a book–a book that fundamentally connects us to one another as it probes one of the most universal human experiences. Notes on Grief is a book for this moment–a work readers will treasure and share now more than ever–and yet will prove durable and timeless, an indispensable addition to Adichie‘s canon.

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