The Other New Lupita Nyong’o Project You Should Know About Right Now

By  · Published on June 3rd, 2014

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America’s newest sweetheart (and the Oscars’ latest Supporting Actress winner) Lupita Nyong’o has been very careful about her job choices (read: she hasn’t eagerly snapped up anything and everything that has come her way) since capturing our hearts with last year’s wrenching turn in 12 Years a Slave, but that seems to be steadily changing (and with so far very good results).

Just yesterday, Nyong’o’s highly anticipated involvement with a project you may have heard of – Star Wars? anyone? anyone? Bueller? – was announced to general enjoyment from fans of both the actress and the beloved franchise, but that’s not the only big endeavor that the actress has taken on lately, and it’s certainly not the only one you should be excited about. Nyong’o’s apparent interest in picking and choosing the next big roles that will help shape the rest of her career also has a literary bent, as she recently snapped up the film rights for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s best-selling novel “Americanah,” a move that may signal her intention to also star in the feature.

Stylist reports on the news (which had been a rumor for weeks now) that Nyong’o has optioned the rights to Adichie’s novel, which hit shelves last year to much acclaim. The book, a sprawling, cross-continent novel, is Adichie’s fourth, and you may be familiar with her work in other editions like “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Purple Hibiscus.” “Half of a Yellow Sun” actually got the movie treatment last year, thanks to a feature film that starred Thandie Newton and Nyong’o’s 12 Years co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor, so Adichie is no stranger to seeing her books on the big screen.

The book follows a young Nigerian woman (Nyong’o is a Mexican-Kenyan, but she is also a part of the Luo ethnic group, who hail from parts of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) who journeys to America in pursuit of higher education (Nyong’o, who was raised in both Mexico and Kenya by an academic and artistic family, actually moved to America to attend college, so it’s no surprise that she apparently connected with the material so closely). Adichie’s own website shares more details about the book, describing it as such:

A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion – for each other and for their homeland.

The book tackles a number of issues, including immigration, education, personal identity and human rights. It’s an epic-in-the-making, and Nyong’o was apparently an early adopter whose passion for the work fueled her decision to pick up the film rights. Adichie has previously shared, “Lupita was a very early fan of Americanah…And so before she was sort of well-known in the way that she is now, she wrote me…the loveliest email, a very long and passionate email about Americanah.”

IndieWire’s Shadow and Act blog also offers up some interesting information and insight about the Nyong’o purchase, along with a video tidbit from Adichie herself, hinting at the deal before it was formally announced. Take a look if you get a chance.

There’s no word yet on who will star in, write or direct the film, but – and we’re just saying here – Nyong’o has experience in all three areas.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to Nyong’o as Mexican-Ugandan when she’s, in fact, Mexican-Kenyan. Our apologies.