To celebrate WOM4N, we asked several of our authors and staff to share their favourite female characters from the 4th Estate bookshelves. Here, Emmanuella Kwenortey explains how she is ever-inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Aunty Ifeoma from Adichie’s award-winning novel Purple Hibiscus.
‘As a woman, to live independently in the deeply patriarchal society that is 1970s Nigeria is one feat; but to be a single mother, academic and financial breadwinner is quite another. Aunty Ifeoma from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning Purple Hibiscus is one of those rare characters who you can do nothing but admire. Following the devastating death of her husband, Ifeoma does something not all women are capable of doing; she dusts herself down, picks herself up and carries her burden, her children and their lives towards salvation.
She epitomizes matriarchy; stern but loving, strong-willed and encouraging she rules with an iron fist but with a tender heart. Her children are encouraged to think, dare, believe – something her young niece and our protagonist Kambili cannot even fathom under the violently autocratic rule of Ifeoma’s brother Eugene, father to Kambili and Jaja. Ifeoma represents courage, something that cannot be said of all the other characters, an unshakable tenacity and an unwavering sense of justice. Faced with a legion of challenges to her career, her finances and the future of her children, she overcomes a seemingly never-ending torrent of problems again and again with will and strength that is not only commendable but remarkable, and, on top of this, finds a way to be a beacon of light in the dark world of her young niece and nephew.
As a mother, an aunt, a woman and ultimately a feminist she represents many of the attributes I hope to possess in my lifetime. There’s an old Jewish proverb I can hear her saying, as she prays for her children, her family and her country in the dark hours of the night as she seeks for hope and strength through her faith: ‘I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders’.’
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