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Chimamanda’s Opinion Challenged

For more than a decade, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has coached and mentored African writers through her annual creative writing workshop. The workshops, with just 20 students out of thousands of applicants, are intimate and for some graduates, career-defining, leading to book deals, prizes and residencies. In a lengthy essay published on her website on Tuesday, Adichie accused a former student of publicly attacking her after a 2017 interview in which Adichie said, among other things, “I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans-women.” Adichie held up the personal feud as a cautionary tale about how social media has been used by “certain young people” as an ideological battering ram rather than a place to communicate and seek understanding. While Adichie did not name Emezi or any other students, Emezi soon responded on Instagram, saying that Adichie had published emails without seeking permission, and that the essay was designed to “incite hordes of transphobic Nigerians to target me.” The dispute — between prominent Nigerian writers whose work has broadened the international readership for contemporary African literature — echoes a larger debate about whether Twitter and other social media outlets have become too toxic, prone to posturing and virtue-signaling rather than honest expression.