Book Review - We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This review was originally published on Tumblr on February 14, 2017 as part of an old project of mine, the Diverse/Lady Book Project. In migrating to Substack, I’ve decided to reproduce this post here, for consistency. And because I lost a bunch of old book reviews when other bloggers deleted them from their websites. Please enjoy 2017 Amanda’s review of We Should All Be Feminists… with a note from 2023 Amanda in the middle.
This is one that’s been on my TBR for about a year, and since I knew it would be a quick read, I wanted to slide it in during some of my busy weeks. And then I still got behind! No matter, I’m here and as back as I can be, while trying to play catch up. If you don’t know what this is, you’re missing out. But! Here’s a brief overview—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did a TedTalk about why we should all be feminists, and it was so well-received that they made it into a short book for anyone to read. And it’s a good thing they did, because everything in it is fire. FIRE, I TELL YOU. Adichie, who hails from Nigeria but has lived much of her adult life in England, has a very interesting take on feminism, and everything about this book had me thinking—sometimes in the form of cheering her on for saying something and sometimes in the form of taking a step back to think about my own beliefs and choices. It’s just so good. And really, we should all be feminists.
Since it’s just a short transcription of a talk, I’m including three quotes that I loved, rather than three things about the book that I loved (because I loved everything).
3 Things (Quotes!) I Loved
“Today, we live in a vastly different world. The person more qualified to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the more creative, the more innovative. And there are no hormones for these attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative, creative. We have evolved. But our ideas of gender have not evolved very much.” This was one of those times that I was cheering. I had no idea how to put this idea into words, even though I’ve been feeling it ever since I was in college. If we’ve evolved so much, why haven’t our ideas about gender changed? It’s a question I’d still like an answer to.
“We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons.” I went into giant squid of anger mode when I read this, because it was another one of those ideas that I knew was true but had never thought about in such terms. But it makes me so angry; the unfairness makes me just rageful. This needs to change!
“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make our own culture.” PREACH. I keep saying that things need to change, but here’s the rub—in order for things to change, someone needs to change them. That’s where we come into the picture. We have to change things. If we don’t do it, who will?
I, personally, didn’t see anything problematic, but like I’ve said in other reviews, I’m just one person with one set of opinions. And my opinion is that this is about as intersectional as it gets, at least as a starting point.
*A note from 2023 Amanda - not long after I published this original review in 2017, Adichie became the center of controversy by responding to an interview question in a very TERF-y way. Details on that can be found in this article from Vox. In 2021, Adichie was in the news again, criticizing a former student and stating that said student was trying to ride Adichie’s fame. That former student identifies as nonbinary, and the TERF-y comments seemed to continue. More on that in this article from NPR. I rate this book really high, and in 2017, I truly felt that way. Now, I’d probably drop the rating a bit, due to the feminism described in this book not being intersectional. But 2017 Amanda still had a lot to learn. Carry on!*
A reminder of the rating scale:
Red = DNF, I hated everything
Orange = Ugh, no thank you
Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
Green = This was good, but not something I’d reread
Blue = Oh my gosh, everyone should be reading this book
Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart
We Should All Be Feminists is BLUE BLUE BLUE. Potentially a blueish purple. About the purple-est blue that exists. (Go read it and then buy it for all of your friends so they can all read it.)