A powerful, warm story about race and identity in a new world different from that which Ifemelu, Obinze and others like them are acquainted with.
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
The distinction between an American-African and an African-American emanates a vehement discussion of race, told through the fictional lives of Ifemelu and Obinze.
So, I learned, an African-American is a black person with long generational history in the United States, most likely with slave ancestors. On the other hand, an American-African is an African who has newly moved into the United States.
Ifemelu braiding her hair in a rundown salon acts as the setting for the story, as Ifemelu looks back at the time she’s spent in America while she is getting ready to move back to Nigeria (she is experiencing an identity crisis, which results in an impromptu decision to move back.) This, moreover, immediately establishes black women’s hair as an integral symbol in the novel (she chooses natural over relaxed or feigned hair).
Throughout the story, Adichie gives direct cultural commentary, including minute, comical observations, through Ifemelu’s successful blog “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.”
Overarching is the love story of Obinze and Ifemelu as they reignite old high-school love as grown, prosperous adults.
Adichie tells this story in a composite way, scattering various events in the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze, which ultimately come together. I particularly love Adichie’s equitable cultural sarcasm towards both Nigeria (Africa) and America (the western world). I was also intrigued by how she portrayed the fact that the place where most citizens of the third-world would think is a paradise, can actually double as an uncomfortable place, especially for the minority.
I personally connected with this book, the critical humor, together with the realization that at home, I didn’t mentally process that I was black, but going to school in a predominantly white country has dolefully caused me to realize my identity and what it means to be a person of color.
An eye-opening point in the book is when Ifemelu abandons her artificial American accent for her authentic African one – never has she felt so free.
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.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Americanah’ is a coming-of-age book that gently addresses the brute reality of the differences in ideology, region, class and race, in Nigeria, America, and Britain. She immersed me completely in the lives of her protagonists, and has become one of my role models. This one is worth the read!
Chimamanda has continued to inspire me as an African woman through her writing and her strong advocacy for feminism, and I thought it fitting to write a book review for one of her award-winning books. I hope you definitely check it out! Click here to reach out to me about your thoughts on this, or similar topics. In addition, click here to learn more about this blog, and be sure to check out my other blogs too! ♥
You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy books, and that’s kind of the same thing! 🙂