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Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is the first book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I've read.  Adichie has written several award winning, best selling novels and a short story collection.  When one of Adichie's friends writes to ask how to raise her daughter feminist, A Feminist Manifesto is the resulting compilation of fifteen suggestions for how to accomplish this task.

Dear Ijeawele is very much a manifesto for how Adichie lives and thinks as a feminist; it's a codification of her own personal feminism in addition to being a primer on feminism, the ways in which society and the world conditions, raises, views, and treats women differently from men, and gender justice issues.  It is both thoughtful and thought provoking.

Adichie's fourth suggestion begins with a warning regarding Feminism Lite or what I would still call subtle misogyny masquerading as feminism and concludes with the point that society has conditioned us to view power as male and thus to see powerful women as abnormal, unfeminine, and discomfiting.  The fifth suggestion "teach [her] to read ... to love books" is a suggestion after my own heart.  Reading as much as possible will provide an education in addition to the one given in schools.

The sixth suggestion that Adichie expounds upon is to "teach her to question language."  Why do men only have empathy for women when they are seen as relational (i.e. sister, mother, wife, daughter) to men rather than as individual human beings?  Why don't men need to view the male crime victim as a brother, father, husband, son to feel empathy?  Why aren't women seen as human beings?  Why must women fight for their personhood while men are born with theirs?

I like that Adichie discusses these issues and ideas both abstractly and concretely.  That is, she also provides concrete examples and experiences in each of her fifteen suggestions.  This is a slim, slight volume that can easily be read in a few days which is perfect for the person who doesn't have a lot of time or who likes to re-read.  In fact this is a book that easily bears re-reading.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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