Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Chimamanda Adichie ’08MA

As the object of daydreams, the $500,000 MacArthur Fellowships are even better than the lottery in that you don’t have to buy a ticket—the call from the MacArthur Foundation comes completely out of the blue. For Chimamanda Adichie ’08MA, a Nigerian novelist who got her master’s in African studies at Yale, the call came on her birthday, while she was in the bathtub at her home in Lagos. “I was thrilled and grateful,” she e-mailed the New York Times. “I like to say that America is like my distant uncle who doesn’t remember my name but occasionally gives me pocket money. That phone call filled me with an enormous affection for my uncle!”

Born to an academic family in Nigeria, Adichie is best known for her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, a story centered on the late-1960s war between Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra. The MacArthur Foundation said that the book “has enriched conversation about the war within Nigeria while also offering insight into the circumstances that lead to ethnic conflict.”

Adichie was one of three Yale-connected people among this year’s 25 MacArthur winners, which were announced on September 23; the other two were Stephen Houston ’87PhD, an anthropologist at Brown who studies the Mayan civilization, and Jennifer Tipton, a professor of lighting design at the School of Drama. The MacArthur Fellowships, known in the media as “genius grants,” offer $500,000—with no strings attached—to “extraordinarily creative individuals who inspire new heights in human achievement,” according to foundation president Jonathan Fanton ’65, ’78PhD.

Filed under Graduate School, alumnae, milestones
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