Half of a Yellow Sun


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie was born as the fifth of sixth children to an Igbo family in Nsukka, Nigeria. Her father was a professor at the University of Nigeria and her mother was the university’s first female registrar. Adichie studied medicine at the university and then moved to the United States at age 19. She received master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins and Yale, and she was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” in 2008. She has published poems, short stories, a play, and three novels – Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah – which have been awarded the Orange Prize among other honors. Adichie is currently married and divides her time between Nigeria and the United States.
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Historical Context of Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun concerns the events of the Nigerian Civil War (also called the Biafran War) and the years preceding it. Nigeria gained independence from the British Empire in 1960, but its existence as a country was an arbitrary structure set up by Britain, and contained many different cultural groups. Ethnic tensions led to the massacre of Igbo peoples in 1966, which then led to the secession of southeastern Nigeria and the creation of Biafra. Aided by Britain and Russia, the Nigerian government then declared war to annex Biafra. The war lasted for three years, from 1967 to 1970, with the Nigerians using starvation and genocide to ultimately defeat the Biafrans. More than a million civilians died from famine and fighting during the war.

Other Books Related to Half of a Yellow Sun

Adichie was inspired and influenced by Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian fiction writer most popular in the West and author of Things Fall Apart. She was also inspired by Camara Laye, author of The Dark Child. Both Achebe and Laye gave Adichie a “shock of recognition” that “people who looked like [her] could exist in books.” Other Nigerian writers who have written about the Biafran War are Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, and Flora Nwapa.
Key Facts about Half of a Yellow Sun
  • Full Title: Half of a Yellow Sun
  • When Published: 2006
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Nigerian Literature
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Nigeria
  • Climax: Ugwu fights on the front lines
  • Point of View: Third person limited, switching between following Ugwu, Olanna, and Richard

Extra Credit for Half of a Yellow Sun

Chinua Achebe. The great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe was one of Adichie’s most important inspirations and influences, and when she was a child Adichie’s family even lived in Achebe’s former house.

Father. Adichie wasn’t even born until years after the Biafran War, but her parents were both affected by it. Her father James lost his home and his own father during the war, and his experiences were Adichie’s main source for the events of the novel.