“When I was 16, I don’t think I knew what the word ‘feminist’ meant,” confesses Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian author who’s penned award-winning works such as Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. “But,” she adds firmly, “I was a feminist.”
Adichie’s latest book is We Should All Be Feminists, a personal essay that touches on sexual politics, gender construction, and Adichie’s own experience of being an African woman. Adapted from a TED Talk the author gave in 2013 that’s now amassed over two million views on YouTube, the book is both a close-to-the-heart narrative and a call for global feminist action.
That call—at least in one country—is being thoughtfully answered.
In Sweden, where a translation of the book was released this Tuesday (Dec. 1), several organizations have banded together to distribute Adichie’s book to all 16-year-olds in the country.
The Swedish Women’s Lobby, together with publishing company Albert Bonniers Förlag, the UN Association of Sweden, and several other partner groups, said Tuesday it would ensure that a free copy of the book makes its way into the hands of every second-grade high school student in Sweden. Over 100,000 copies have been given out so far, and the Swedish Women’s Lobby also plans to distribute discussion guidelines to teachers next month.
While the free book will be given only to teenagers, the hope is that all Swedish citizens will benefit. In a statement, Clara Berglund, chair of the advocacy group, said “this is the book that I wish all of my male classmates would have read when I was 16.” Adichie’s book, she said, will be “a gift to ourselves and future generations.”
At the group’s Tuesday press conference in Stockholm announcing the project, Adichie greeted Swedish high school students via video, saying:
For me, feminism is about justice. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world that is more just. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world where a woman is never told that she can or cannot—or should or should not—do anything because she’s a woman. I want to live in a world where men and women are happier, where they’re not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal, and that’s why I’m a feminist.
Sweden, of course, is not the only country to hail Adichie’s book as an exemplar of feminist speech. The book is in a top spot in Amazon’s best-selling gender studies book list right now, and US singer Beyoncé even sampled Adichie’s words in a pop track in on her latest album.