“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”
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.
I finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at 4 in the morning. I simply was not able to stop reading after the first half of it. I remember reading and loving Half Of A Yellow Sun so many years ago. I loved it so much that I named one of our kittens Chimamanda. When I started reading Americanah I honestly couldn’t help but compare it to Half Of A Yellow Sun and felt a bit underwhelmed. I guess I was expecting the same flavor and heat. Still, the main character Ifemelu eventually won me over with her feminist thoughts, her intelligence that is somehow still grounded, and her honest view of the world.
“In America, racism exists but racists are all gone. Racists belong to the past. Racists are the thin-lipped mean white people in the movies about the civil rights era. Here’s the thing: the manifestation of racism has changed but the language has not. So if you haven’t lynched somebody then you can’t be called a racist. If you’re not a bloodsucking monster, then you can’t be called a racist. Somebody has to be able to say that racists are not monsters.”
“Maybe it’s time to just scrap the word “racist.” Find something new. Like Racial Disorder Syndrome. And we could have different categories for sufferers of this syndrome: mild, medium, and acute.”
I obviously wanted to read this because of the topic of race and privilege, and it was wonderful how the author mapped the way for me, making a complex topic concise without stripping away the weight of it. The bite-sized essays (blog posts) are so full of wisdom and humor, too. The characters are all fleshed out and made realistic wrong decisions with realistic consequences. I was honestly a bit iffy with the adultery elements, but I believe the author was sensitive and smart enough to wrap it up in a pleasant and acceptable manner.
“But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and Third Worlders are forward-looking, we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West their best is already past and so they have to make a fetish of that past. Remember this is our newly middle-class world. We haven’t completed the first cycle of prosperity, before going back to the beginning again, to drink milk from the cow’s udder.”
I was fascinated by the similarities of Lagos and Manila culture. The obsession with getting out of the country to find a better future and better opportunities abroad because we are “conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else.” As a “child of the Third World” myself, I love seeing my fellow children of the third world choosing their homeland of course. It’s one of the few things I am conservative about. And though love for one’s own country should not be a requirement for anyone, it shouldn’t be a thing to be ashamed of as well. Staying or going back to the place where you were born and raised is never a sign of having no dreams or aspirations, it is a personal choice that should be respected.
“Everybody in this country has the mentality of scarcity. We imagine that even the things that are not scarce are scarce. And it breeds a kind of desperation in everybody. Even the wealthy.”
“They themselves mocked Africa, trading stories of absurdity, of stupidity, and they felt safe to mock, because it was a mockery born of longing, and of the heartbroken desire to see a place made whole again.”
Lastly, Americanah at its core is a love story: it’s about a romantic relationship between two people who just can’t stay away from each other; but it’s also about a woman’s journey to self-love and self-discovery. It’s true that sometimes you need to go somewhere far away to find yourself, and home will always be the place where your heart rests while your mind is free to wander. Wherever that may be, I hope we don’t settle for anything less. 🤎
“She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself.”
About the Author
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria.
Her work has been translated into over thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book; and Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. Ms. Adichie is also the author of the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck.
Ms. Adichie has been invited to speak around the world. Her 2009 TED Talk, The Danger of A Single Story, is now one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time. Her 2012 talk We Should All Be Feminists has a started a worldwide conversation about feminism, and was published as a book in 2014.
Her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017.
A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Ms. Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Paperback, 588 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Anchor (first published May 14th 2013)
Original Title: Americanah
ISBN0307455920 (ISBN13: 9780307455925)
Edition Language: English
Characters: Ifemelu, Obinze Maduewesi, Blaine, Shan, Curt, Aunty Uju, Dike, Ginika, Emenike, Ranyinudo
Setting: Lagos (Nigeria), London, England, Princeton, New Jersey (United States)
Literary Awards: Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction (2013), National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (2013), Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee (2014), Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee for Fiction (Shortlist) (2014), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2013) Go On Girl! Book Club Award for Author of the Year (2016), International Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2015)
Genres: Fiction | Contemporary | Feminism | Literary Fiction | Race | African Culture