Lupita Nyong’o recently optioned the film rights to Americanah, a critically acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Nyong’o has also joined the cast of the much anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII, which is due for release at the end of next year. She joins Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, who are both stars of the franchise’s earlier films. Her role has yet to be announced.
People’s “Most Beautiful Woman” became the first African actress and Mexican citizen to win an Oscar. Nyong’o’s star continues to rise, and she appears to be choosing her projects carefully. Both she and Adichie are in the running for Personality of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards, to be held on Saturday.
Nyong’o is the new face of Lancôme, and is a red carpet favorite. She is one of fifteen actresses to have won an Academy Award in their debut performance. Her gut-wrenching portrayal of Patsey in 12 Years a Slave depicted the atrocities and cruelties that defined slavery in America.
Americanah is a love story between two Nigerians who return home after years of studying and living abroad. The novel focuses on the challenges they face with trying to assimilate overseas and then being able to make a living in their changing homeland. The issue of being aware of one’s race runs throughout the story, as the main characters have gone from being the majority to being amongst minorities in foreign cultures. Americanah made the New York Times’ “10 Best Books of 2013″ list. It also won last year’s National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
Ifemelu, the female protagonist, ends up being the owner of a successful blog that focuses on race in America. She still feels a link to Nigeria despite having lived abroad for over ten years, and still has feelings for an old flame named Obinze, the male protagonist. He, too, has lingering feelings for his old love, and has done quite well for himself after returning to Nigeria from England, landing a good job and starting a family. Nyong’o optioned the film rights after rumors began circulating due to Adichie saying that the actress was an early fan of the novel.
Adichie already has a movie made from one of her novels. Half of a Yellow Sun was released in April in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. It stars Thandie Newton and Nyong’o’s 12 Years co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor. Adichie was said to have been happy with the film, which centers on two sisters in the midst of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, which started in July 1967 and lasted for just over two-and-a-half years.
Half of a Yellow Sun was also critically acclaimed, making the New York Times’ 2006 “100 Most Notable Books of the Year” list. Another sign of Adichie’s growing popularity in America is her speech on feminism at TEDxEuston in 2012 being featured in Beyoncé’s song ***Flawless.
Nyong’o already has experience in making films behind the camera. In 2009, she wrote, directed, produced and edited In My Genes, a documentary that focuses on albinos and the discrimination they face in Kenya. Details have yet to emerge over how involved Nyong’o will be in Americanah’s film adaptation since buying the rights, and when it is due for release.
By Sibylla Chipaziwa