Female Leaders, All From Families of Immigrants, Share Their Stories

For Marie Claire‘s special immigration report, we’re celebrating the talents and contributions of women with roots in foreign lands.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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OCCUPATION: Writer.

BEST KNOWN FOR: Purple Hibiscus (2003); Half of a Yellow Sun (2006); Americanah (2013), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction; and We Should All Be Feminists (2014), based on her 2012 TEDx speech of the same name that was sampled by Beyoncé on “Flawless.”

BIRTHPLACE: Enugu, Nigeria.

CURRENT RESIDENCES: Baltimore and Lagos.

HER ROOTS: One of six children, Adichie grew up in Nsukka, Nigeria, in a house once occupied by Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart. Her father worked at the University of Nigeria as a professor of statistics and later as its deputy vice chancellor, her mother was an administrator, and Adichie herself later studied medicine there. But all she wanted was to read and write stories. “I came to the U.S. to flee the study of medicine,” she says. “My sister, a physician with dual Nigerian-American citizenship—she was born in the U.S. when my father was getting his Ph.D. at Berkeley—had moved to the U.S. So I had family in the U.S.,” the writer says. “I decided to take the SAT. I got a scholarship and came to the U.S. to study communication and political science.”

HER IDENTITY: “My primary identity shifts based on the context. I am Igbo, Nigerian, African, pan-African, black, feminist,” says Adichie, 40, who has permanent-resident status in the U.S. “I am also a dreamer, a question asker, a stroyteller, a student of life, a believer in the dignity of every human being.”

TO ME, AMERICA MEANS: “A place where once-shiny things have tarnished and are in dire need of being made shiny again.”

HER WORDS: In Americanah (which Lupita Nyong’o will be making as a TV miniseries), Adichie relates wise words about connecting with communities different than one’s own: “If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more.”

SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT NIGERIA: “It is the most populated nation in Africa.”

ON BEING ASKED, WHERE ARE YOU FROM?“It depends on the subtext and context. Sometimes it comes from genuine curiosity, which is welcome, and I am happy to talk about where I am from. Other times it is code for ‘You do not belong.’ And in such cases, my response is ‘The moon.’”

Diane Guerrero

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Getty ImagesBoston Globe

 

Occupation: Actress and author of In the Country We Love.

BEST KNOWN FOR: Orange Is the New Black (Netflix), Jane the Virgin (The CW), Superior Donuts (CBS). Wrote about the deportations of her parents and brother in a 2014 L.A. Times op-ed.

FAMILY ORIGIN: Colombia.

BIRTHPLACE: Passaic, New Jersey.

CURRENT RESIDENCE: L.A.

WHAT HAS AFFECTED YOU MOST ABOUT THE U.S. BORDER CRISIS? “Anyone who experiences a traumatic separation from a loved one knows that it takes time to adjust to the emptiness in your life. I can’t help but think it’s even worse for children who realize that anonymous federal agents have taken their mother or father, or both, like what happened when I was a teenager. When I heard the audio recordings of young children crying out for a parent or aunt, to the point of not being able to catch their breath, I was overcome with a rush of painful memories. Then when I saw the videos of children wrapped in those foil-like blankets behind fencing that looked like cages, my heart broke. I thought to myself, How can our nation be so cruel? It made me want to try even harder to get people to vote in November so that the true compassionate voice of America is heard.” [Read More…]

 

Source: Marie Claire

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