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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘America under Trump felt like a personal loss'

As her novel Half of a Yellow Sun is hailed as the Women’s prize ‘winner of winners’, the Nigerian-born, US-based author talks about her relief over Joe Biden’s victory – and the bittersweet highs of a difficult year

A few hours before Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I are due to speak, the result of the US election is finally called. The Nigerian novelist, who is based in Maryland but is currently in Lagos, where she spends part of the year, had been on her way back from taking her daughter to a birth­day party when she heard the news. “The moment that we’ve been waiting for,” she says. “Everyone was calling: my best friend, my mum, my sister called, we were all sort of screaming down the phone.” Her husband, a hospital doctor, had returned to the US the previous week. “He and I were going crazy,” she says. “I was almost close to tears because I thought this is really about people who just want decency back. I feel it is really not ideological, it is more about wanting something human and humane. I find it so moving.”

As it is for so many, her relief is tempered by disappointment at Donald Trump’s unexpectedly strong perform­ance. “I’ve always felt that Trump is as much America as Obama,” she says. “People on the left like to say ‘This is not America’, but actually it is. If you look at the history of America, it is not that surprising that Trump is so popular.” People feel “very threatened” both by the idea of a more inclusive, multiracial politics and women having more overt power, she says. So the victory for Kamala Harris as the first black female vice-president-elect is all the more thrilling. “It is impossible to talk about her, about what’s happened today, without thinking about what might happen in four or eight years – that she might in fact become president,” Adichie says. “Even if just for the symbolism of it, because the symbolic nature of leadership is important.”

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