After writing more than 20 different novels, short stories, and poetry, starting multiple magazines, teaching and bringing attention to the literary talents of African writers, Nigerian author and literary behemoth Chinua Achebe has died at the age of 82. According to the Los Angeles Times, Achebe was battling an illness as of late that had forced him to be hospitalized.
While Achebe is known all over the world for his critically-acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart, a novel on the idea of culture and customs, and the effects of British colonialism in Nigeria (which was something many high school students were required to read back in the day), Achebe has done many great things since he was able to get that iconic work published back in 1958. He helped many little known African novelists gain the global attention they deserved by being the advisory editor for the African Writer Series, being involved in politics in Nigeria (including being the deputy vice president of the People’s Redemption Party in the early ’80s), teaching Africana studies at Brown and spreading his knowledge at other places for higher education, and by just paving the way for Africana writers to gain success and be taken seriously on more than just a national level. In 2007, Achebe was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for fiction and the The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2010, receiving $300,000 as one of the biggest monetary rewards for artistic endeavors.
As someone who used to just stick to the books my teachers pushed for summer reading and black works of fiction (some very hood fabulous ones back in high school I must admit), when I made the decision to do my senior project in AP English on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart after finding it on my father’s shelf, it changed things for me as both someone who wanted to write and as a child of a Nigerian father. I was unaware how much it would encourage me to learn more about my own people’s culture (any other Edo people in the house???) and check out the work of many more extraordinarily talented African authors. Achebe’s passing is a major loss to the literary world, but luckily for us, he left a lot of gems behind to keep his name and talents going for years to come.
R.I.P. to you, good sir.