Multiple award-winning author, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, has revealed that she was not born with the name, Chimamanda; instead, she created it.
She noted that her parents did not christen her with the name. She said, “I made up the name, I invented the name Chimamanda. I created, Chimamanda; my parents did not name me Chimamanda. It is true. The reason I decided to talk about it is because they say that culture does not change. Do you know how many people in Igbo land that are called Chamamanda today?
“It happened shortly before my first novel was published. I was born Ngozi Grace; my mother is Grace. Growing up, I always felt that I was not Grace, that was my mother and Ngozi felt too common to me. In primary school, I was Ngozi.”
In an interview with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu for Bounce Radio Live, the prolific writer stated that she was born Ngozi Adichie but she changed her name after she was baptized.
“Being Catholic, one of the joys of Catholicism is that you get to choose a name when you get confirmed. I thought of a name I could choose but the priest said it had to be the name of a saint.
“People were choosing ridiculous names like Bernadette. I read a novel and there was a character called Amanda, so, I choose the name, Amanda. The priest said it was not a saint’s name but I told the father that it was the name I wanted.
“I pushed, so, they let me. I was Amanda at confirmation. I was Amanda from secondary school till my first year at the University at Nsukka when I was studying medicine,” the author said.
At the time she travelled to the United States of America, she said that the name Amanda did not seem unique to her anymore.
“Then, I went to the US. About a month into my time in the US, I was in class as an undergraduate and there were about five people with that name, Amanda. It was not unique anymore and the way it was pronounced put me off. I felt that was not me. I started thinking about how I could change the name; remember that I had already changed my name from Ngozi to Amanda.
“For a while, I will merge both. I will call myself, Amanda-Ngozi because I really wanted them to know that I am not Amanda (one of them). It was also a learning experience for me because what you think is cool in Nigeria, suddenly I thought, this is nonsense, wanting an English name,” she said.
The Half of a Yellow Sun writer said that she longed for an Igbo name shortly before her first novel was published and after much thought, the name came to her. Due to the fact that the name Amanda was on most of her document, she had to think deep of an Igbo name that had ‘Amanda’ in it, hence, the name Chimamanda came to fore.
“Just before my novel was published, I was thinking and I remember exactly where I was when it came to me. I am not a person who is given to this kind of Pentecostal talk but it felt like a revelation, it really did. I was in my brother’s house in England, in their tiny guestroom, lying on a narrow bed thinking about the fact that my novel is going to be published and I do not want to be introduced to the world as Amanda. I wanted an Igbo name but I did not want Ngozi because I did not feel like Ngozi; it felt too common. Ngozi, I think is a lovely name but it is so common and it did not feel like me.
“I remember just lying there and it just came to me, Chimamanda. By the way, when I was thinking of a name, I could have just picked an Igbo name but I wanted a name that had Amanda in it so that I would not have to change my passport. I already had this identity; I had a passport, driver’s license, bank account with that name. So, it was really about how I could hold on to that name but make it Igbo,” the novelist said.