Funny, fresh and witty. A handful of pages through and I was chuckling at the dialogue. I’m fully aware that I’m very much behind on the train regarding this author and especially this book, as it was published in 2013 and though I’d thought about reading it, somehow I never got around to it. Until late last year when a friend sent me a very excited FB message telling me that I NEEDED to pick this book up and as she’s a fellow bookie like me, I figured I’d take the hint. 😊 Let me tell you, this book tackles it ALL. Read on and see our review of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Americanah.
The novel follows the two main characters and lovers, Ifemelu and Obinze, who are full of love and dreams of their future, growing up in Nigeria. Circumstances change their paths and take Ifemelu to America and Obinze to England; but they’re fates take them on very different journeys in their collective “promised land”. While Ifemelu’s life begins to take off after she begins a blog discussing race and the Black identity in America, Obinze’s life on the other hand, disappoints him as he struggles to settle in the UK, and is forced to attempt a sham marriage, which ultimately gets him deported and is forced to re-start his life in Nigeria. Despite the successful career, stable relationship and and established life for Ifemelu and a marriage, new child, wealth and status for Obinze, one simple email changes their perspective and they both come to terms with the fact that they are going through the motions in their lives without each other.
Break it Down:
The novel tackles some really hard hitting subjects about race and perception, which is cleverly wrapped up around a love story. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche finds a brilliant way to shed light on how race is perceived within the Black community, but also I loved how she touches on how it made Ifemelu (and possibly other Africans) feel when we as Westerners assume to know what life is like on the African continent. Specifically the part where Kimberly, Ifemelu’s boss discusses the charity work and money she raises for the vulnerable in Africa. The quote that stood out for me was Ifemelu’s thought of for once wanting to be part of the group that wasn’t receiving the aid. It really struck me about how the African continent doesn’t get to “manage” the dialogue of how we talk about it as a country. I loved how the author was able to weave such a beautiful imagery of Nigeria, the people, the food, the culture, but also not the usual imagery of poverty that is traditionally displayed when it comes to different African countries. It was honest, as well- it was harsh and open in it’s criticism of how Africans treat each other, in regards to their tribes, the way they speak (the ones who fasten themselves after the British), the way that culturally you could have no money to your name, but as long as you can put on a show for the outside world, this will buy you status. This is particularly the case when it comes to Aunt Uja when she begins a relationship with a married government official, eventually she falls pregnant, expecting this to lead to more stability, but when he dies suddenly, she is left with a stained reputation, no money to her name and no protection. Another point I noticed is how she touches on the subject of mental health within the Black community, because it’s not something that is discussed often. It was an interesting contrast with how she covers Ifemelu’s depression very lightly, but then discusses Dike’s suicide attempt through how it affected Ifemelu and how they missed the signs.
What also struck a chord with me, was Ifemelu’s dialogue regarding her partners and the different version of “herself” she felt she needed to be, became or even develop into based on her boyfriends. Especially when it came to Curt, her White, American boyfriend, she explains him as an “ally” but then again he was very naive to some of the experiences she encountered; she explains a scenario where Curt’s aunt asked her if she’s ever performed any witchcraft, this upset Ifemelu but Curt was unable to see how this was offensive, he merely saw his aunt as being friendly, when in fact she really was being quite prejudice. This is something I could relate to as a reader but also as a Black female living in a predominantly White area, I am somehow privy to so many microaggressions in my daily life. This book is open, frank and necessary- it’s one of the reasons I have decided to read more books from authors of colour. There is a dialogue/conversation and discourse that is ignored or missed; there are a huge cluster of topics and populations that are being ignored.
I found myself stalling to finish because as I read the book, I found myself willing Ifemelu and Obinze back together, but once I got to about the remainding 10-15 pages, I wasn’t prepared for the fact that the book was nearing an end and they were yet to be a couple. Because I’m dramatic, I actually put the book down for a day and let my mind churn over how I thought it would end and how upset I would be if they don’t end up together at the conclusion of the book. So, it’s not a critique of the book as such, but as the story progressed with so much detail, humour and wit, I felt that it ended in somewhat of a rushed fashion, but it doesn’t remove from the fact that the book was a wonderful read.
The RnR Rating:
Let me tell you! This book gave me so many many feelings! It provoked so much thought for me, about race, acceptance, ignorance, culture and misconceptions. This book is 100% a 5 out of 5 RnR’s; it’s witty, open, honest and legit a full on eye opener about Black culture, African culture and just the way Blackness is viewed among fellow Africans and fellow African-Americans.
Would I recommend the book?:
100%! In my opinion, this book is VITAL, it’s not only made me think about a lot, it’s also necessary, even if it opens people’s eyes- I’ll say it again, it’s NECESSARY. Pick this book UP, I’m only upset I didn’t pick it up sooner!