Want a Feminist Daughter, Dad? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Has Advice for You, Too2 min read

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Father, Heal Thyself: The Nigerian novelist and feminist thinker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a new book on the hardcover nonfiction list — “Dear Ijeawele: Or, A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions” debuts at No. 4. The book began as a letter to a childhood friend, who wondered how she might raise an empowered daughter. Adichie’s customarily direct advice was, more or less, to overthrow the system: “Teach her that the idea of ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense,” she writes. “Do not ever tell her that she should or should not do something because she is a girl. ‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.”

My own daughters already seem perfectly capable of tearing down the patriarchy, or at any rate its local representative. But I was curious whether Adichie would offer different advice to a man who wants feminist daughters (and a feminist society) than she had to Ijeawele. And she did, sort of: “Had I written the letter to a father instead of a mother,” she told me via email, “most of the suggestions would be the same but obviously not all — no talk of inherited shame, for example.” (From the book: “In every culture in the world, female sexuality is about shame. . . . Teach her to reject the linking of shame and female biology.”) Writing to a man, she continued, “I think I would suggest that a father find ways to actively challenge the way society has constructed masculinity. To let his daughter know that it’s perfectly normal for boys and men to be vulnerable, for boys and men to cry.” In other words, guys: You should still overthrow the system, but you should do it as Alan Alda instead of Gloria Steinem.

Also on AoC:  Write What You Know (BS Writing Advice That Isn’t As Trite As It Seems) [Arielle K Harris]

Jam Session: Mohsin Hamid’s new novel, “Exit West,” about the global refugee crisis, hits the hardcover fiction list at No. 5. In a recent profile for The Financial Times, the journalist Carl Wilkinson noted that the book is simpler and more pared down than Hamid’s previous work, and wondered whether his 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son had anything to do with that. “Now that I think about it, it does feel like a novel written by someone with two small kids,” Hamid agreed, adding that his children often make him invent bedtime stories on the fly: “ ‘Baba, today I want a story about a T. rex and a jellyfish!’ That’s wonderful. It feels like being a classical musician invited to a jam session. It’s fun. Let’s rock out.”

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Prenatal: If literature is news that stays news, self-help can sometimes feel more like a breathless news release. Consider the subtitle of Sara Gottfried’s “Younger,” new at No. 10 on the advice list: “A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years.” Really, 10 years? Maybe my second grader should try it so we can all sleep through the night again.

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