They say that timing is everything, and reading is no exception. Sometimes you read a book and acknowledge that you probably would have enjoyed it more if you had read it when you were older or younger, in a different mood, or at a different time of year. However, sometimes you read a book at the precise moment you need its advice most. This ideal timing recently happened to me when I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s tiny book Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. I finished reading it in one sitting before going to bed one night and immediately wanted to start reading it all over again. It’s safe to say that this is the best feminist text I’ve read in a while.
Dear Ijeawele is a modified version of a letter Adichie sent to a friend after this new mother asked Adichie how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. What a question! It’s one that many people likely ask themselves but few endeavor to answer directly and comprehensively, especially through writing. How do you raise a feminist in a culture that is often at odds with gender equality, intersectionality, and acceptance? I do not have kids nor have I ever raised one; however, I would venture to say that Adichie does a pretty good job of answering this question.
What I love about Adichie’s writing is that it is direct, to the point, and unabashedly honest. Nothing is sugar-coated or brushed over. For instance, she blatantly describes the difference between how men often act after they get a divorce and how women often act after they get a divorce. She describes how women will support each other by saying things along the lines of “You’re going to be okay,” while men will say things like “You could do better than her anyways.” Notice the difference? The former focuses on individual progress and development, whereas the latter denounces the ex-wife as inferior or not good enough. This is a bold statement to make on Adichie’s part—it doesn’t exactly portray men in a favorable light—but she doesn’t shy away from incorporating it into her argument.
This book doesn’t just advise the reader on how to raise a feminist; rather, Adichie’s text also reminds the reader how to be a feminist. In a sea of books, films, and songs emphasizing romantic love as a heightened ideal, it’s nice to be reminded that marriage doesn’t have to be one’s first and foremost priority all the time. It’s also nice to be reminded that marriage isn’t the only path for women to walk on, despite what the media might otherwise proclaim. Adichie lauds women who are passionate about their careers and underscores the importance of normalizing women holding leadership positions and being successful in the workplace. I read this at a time when such a reminder was incredibly helpful and comforting, particularly as my final year of college begins.
If you’re searching for a powerful, quick, witty feminist read, then look no further than Dear Ijeawele. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether you’re raising a feminist or just hoping to be one.
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What are your thoughts on Dear Ijeawele? Have any other feminist texts you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!