“Stories matter. And words matter.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the PEN America Symposium

“Stories matter. And words matter.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the PEN America Symposium

On Monday, September 12, at a sold-out event in New York that celebrated the centenary of the free expression group PEN America, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was among the many literary luminaries who took to the stage to talk about censorship and free speech, especially in writing.

Soon after taking the stage, Adichie brought up the brutal attack on Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, who was stabbed onstage last month at a literary event in upstate New York.

“After the attack on Salman Rushdie, I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she said, going on to imagine “the brutal and barbaric intimacy of someone standing inches from you and forcefully plunging a knife into your flesh,” simply “because you wrote.”

She ended her speech with a “small story”, in which she went on to revisit the passing of the draconian Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act passed into law by the Nigerian government in 2014, and her personal experience of how storytelling can create change where prejudice once thrived.

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