Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is a love story which maps the life of its two main characters and teenage sweethearts, Ifemelu and Obinze. Beginning in Nigeria with its quirks and traditions, Americanah travels across three continents in its explorations of love, loss, race and identity.
I liked Americanah for various reasons. Adichie’s depiction of Nigerian culture and attitudes were executed in vivid detail most certainly influenced by her Nigerian background. The easy shift between English and Nigerian dialects were effortless. Americanah had a clear understanding of the struggles and discrimination which immigrants experience in their quest to live and be accepted in Britain and America. Unapologetic and blunt, this novel tackled and questioned the pockets of racism, both institutional and every-day, which still exist no matter how far we’ve come, and I’m thrilled that Adichie didn’t shy away from the topic.
Ifemelu seemed like a modern Lizzy Bennet (minus the skin colour). She was daring, outspoken and energetic. She voiced certainties and doubts about things such as work, interracial relationships and hair as an African woman living in America. Ifemelu made me laugh, and most importantly, her assessment of life as an African woman were thought-provoking and drenched in an uncomfortable truth which lies beneath the layers of society. Her blog was just brilliant. If it were a real one I would read it.
Obinze and Ifemelu learned a hard truth about immigration: don’t except everyone to accept you. Both characters experienced hardship and humiliation. Yet, they were tenacious although not always hopeful. Such brilliant characters- even the supporting characters.
This book needs to be read. There’s so much to learn from Americanah: it’s funny, honest, poignant, familiar and politically and racially conscious. It took me some time to finish this book, and at times I thought the story could be condensed; however, in hindsight, I don’t know if Adichie could have explored the themes in a few pages. So, Americanah is worth it and as I inhabited the beautiful and fractured world of Ifemelu and Obinze, I didn’t want the novel to end.