Revisiting Adaeze Atuegwu: 17 Books at 17
Every story has a beginning and the story of young talented Nigerian writers making our country proud at home and internationally started before the days of the internet.
On July 28, 1995, a press conference was held at the Enugu Press Centre in Enugu, Enugu State for the youngest published writer to emerge in Nigeria then – a 17-year-old teenager who had written 17 books that were later to be used as literature materials in all levels of education in Nigeria. At this event, the first lady of Enugu State then, Mrs. Olusola Torey, described Atuegwu as a child prodigy while the media described her as ‘one of the youngest most prolific writers with an aggressive creative writing talent’ as well as a ‘literary whiz kid.’
Following this press interview, Atuegwu was recognized by the international community including the British Council, the United States Information Services (USIS), and other foreign embassies. She went on to become a popular face on national TV, radio, and print media, making history as the youngest most prolific Nigerian novelist and writer.
About a year later, on May 31, 1996, Atuegwu’s 17 books were launched. The book launch (17 Books at 17) was attended by the media, top government officials, private citizens, schools, religious organizations, and public dignitaries including many royal fathers. At her book launch, Late Major General Sam Momah (who was the Minister of Science and Technology at that time), and the Enugu State first lady then, Mrs. Olusola Torey, described her as a literary genius and a “gift to Nigeria.’
Atuegwu’s manifestation of her uncommon writing talent at such an early age, ushered a new generation of inspired young Nigerian writers. Infact, one could argue that Atuegwu is one of the forerunners of the new era of young accomplished Nigerian writers as well as one of the early predecessors of third generation of Nigerian writers.
In 2019, Ever Obi, a young novelist, who had never met Atuegwu but was inspired by her writing and age at publication, dedicated his first novel “Men Don’t Die” to Atuegwu stating ‘Adaeze Atuegwu…in whose works and writings, I found my childhood muses’, shows the extent of influence Atuegwu had on young Nigerian writers.
Atuegwu’s first book, Fate, written in 1994, was published by Fourth Dimension Publishers, Enugu, notable for also publishing Chinua Achebe’s books. The remainder of her sixteen books were all written and published within a few weeks of completing Fate, and they include Tears, Chalet 9, The Magic Leaf, The Adventures of Nnanna, Bina Series (5 books) and Lizzy Series (6 books). All 17 books were used in many primary, secondary, and universities across the nation for decades. The books were also used for junior and senior West African Examinations Council (WAEC) exams as well as other common entrance exams for a long time.
Atuegwu’s Bina series about a naughty boy (Bina and the Birthday Cake, Bina and the Sailboat, Bina at the Beach, Bina at the Supermarket, Bina at the Airport) was so popular that it inspired “Bina haircut” named after the hair style of the main character in the series, Bina. The haircut, desired among young children in the late 1990s and 2000s, persists in some part of Nigeria till date, showing Atuegwu’s influence and reach on the younger population even outside her books.
Atuegwu went on to become one of the youngest recipients of multiple Rotary International awards including Award for Creativity (1994), Award for Fostering Child Development (1995), and Award for Excellence in Writing (1996). She also received multiple Rotaract International Awards including an Award for Creativity in 1996. Prior to this, Atuegwu was the winner of a 1993 National World Health Day essay contest.
But who is Adaeze Ifeoma Atuegwu?
Adaeze Ifeoma Atuegwu is from Nnewi, Anambra State. She was born June 5, 1977, in Enugu, Enugu State to Prince Chris Atuegwu of the Nnofo royal lineage of Otolo Nnewi, and Lady Ifeoma Atuegwu (nee Chikwendu) founder of Bina Foundation, also from Nnewi.
Atuegwu is an advocate for the blind and visually impaired. Through Bina Foundation, an NGO dedicated to championing disability inclusion in Nigeria, Adaeze Atuegwu’s books have been translated to Braille and audio which are donated to charities and establishments for disadvantaged children, including centres for the blind and visually impaired.
Atuegwu is also the granddaughter of Benneth and Winifred Chikwendu, one of the most influential entrepreneurs in Eastern Nigeria especially in Nnewi and Anambra State post-colonial Nigeria and post Nigerian Civil War.
Atuegwu graduated from University Primary School Enugu (1989) and University Secondary School Enugu (1994) with multiple awards including awards for the best-behaved student, best English Language student, and best Foods and Nutrition student. Atuegwu served as a copy editor and contributing writer for Honour, her secondary school magazine.
Atuegwu attended University of Nigeria Nsukka for a few months prior to relocating to New Jersey, USA in 1996 to continue her education at Rutgers University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy and a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree in 2002. While in Rutgers University, she served as the copy editor and contributing writer for her pharmacy yearbook, Pharmascript.
Atuegwu has a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Atuegwu, who is also a medical non-fiction writer, also has a master’s degree in Medication Therapy Management (MTM) from the University of Florida and holds a certification from the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).
Atuegwu’s pathway to her success was a combination of many things including discovering her talent at an early age, her dedication to writing, parents who were encouraging, a publishing company who took interest in her books, a society that supported youth writing, as well as her individual input and hard work.
As more Nigerian youth pick up their pens and write their way to national and international recognition, we remain grateful to talented young writers before them who made it possible for other young writers to be taken seriously and appreciated.
Atuegwu, who is a Nigerian American, currently resides in Washington D.C. with her family. She continues to inspire young writers especially the decades of generation that grew up reading and loving her books.