Brilliant Women Can Be Hot Babes

When two smart, powerful, and visionary women took to the same stage, it made for one intriguing conversation and one definitely worth savouring.

Here’s a chance to listen to a New York Public Library podcast which has just become available on SoundCloud, of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith talking about writing, race, and relationships.

We all now know that Beyonce’s a BIG fan, after she used an excerpt from Chimamanda’s Ted talk in ‘Flawless’ but there’s a whole lot more in the conversation between two brilliant writers.

It’s very important that brilliant women step out there and be hot babes

Adichie’s Americanah won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award, and in describing it Chimamanda said “I like to say that this is my f**k you book, in some ways f**k you to another version of my self”. Zadie Smith took the Orange Prize for her moving transatlantic novel On Beauty. 

There is nothing more pleasurable than reading about strong female characters moving through complex relationships with freedom. Chimanda and Zadie are not the kinds of writers who write cliched ‘chick lit’ characters more commonly associated with mainstream fiction.

Zadie dug in and asked questions not only from one writer to another writer but from one woman to another woman. Talking about how unusual it was that Chimamanda writes about women who don’t have a moments doubt about speaking their mind and who aren’t written in relation to their men but are somehow always themselves and are always confident.

“Very often I hear from people who say – your female characters are so strong, how do you do that?” Chimamanda says “But to say that the idea of a woman being strong, and simply being strong not to prove anything or not to be unusual is normal to me”

Chimamanda has the ability to show the romantic and sexual relationships in her fiction writing in a way that makes the characters feels utterly genuine. Zadie discussed about how Americanah as a whole book is basically structured on a series of romances, and the women in the books do make choices, which involve sexual choices which is also unusual in fiction and the idea that sex is not something that is a trade or a debate but something you want passionately because it’s a serious part of a relationship.

“You know that idea that a woman can’t own her sexuality, can’t own her choices? I just thought the woman in my world don’t have to wait because they’re women”

It’s a fascinating conversation about the delicacy of distinction with class in Nigerian society compared to virtually no distinction of class for black people in the U.S and the stereotypes about the various levels of class and and even cultural differences between Jamaican and Nigerian communities. Together they explore the idea of ‘Race’ or ‘Black’ as an identity and how their experiences have differed.

You can also watch the conversation here.