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Nigeria is still coming to terms with the war 40 years on, and Adichie hopes her book contributes to that. "We don't learn about this in school. In Nigerian history we get to 1967 and just move straight on to 1970. For a lot of Nigerians this is really a work of history, and it's very gratifying for me to hear from Nigerians in particular - because, in the end, it is the opinion of Nigerians that matters most - who say, 'My parents lived through the war and nobody ever talked about it until your book appeared.' "

Adichie's parents are academics, and hers is a high-achieving family. Her elder sister is a doctor and initially she planned to follow her, but realised she didn't care about medicine. She had loved books and writing from the age of seven. She says she was in tears when she told her father she had won the prize. "I was surprised at how excited he was. He was singing an Igbo song, a thank-you song to God. My father's a very reserved and quiet man, very calm and stoic, and I thought he'd say, 'Oh, well done,' but no, he started singing and dancing, and I started crying because it was very moving."

Adichie considers Nigeria her home, but says she will continue to spend part of her time in the US, where her sister works. She is doing a master's course in African Studies at Yale, which she says gives her access to material she would never find in Nigeria, and teaches creative writing. Despite the success of Half of a Yellow Sun, she reckons she will still need to teach to provide a steady income. "Creative writing programmes are not very necessary," she says. "They just exist so that people like us can make a living." But surely after being deified by Richard and Judy, racking up huge sales, and now winning the Orange prize, she's secure? "I think you just get this once in your life," she says.

Originally appeared in Guardian.


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