Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: International/Cultural Fiction, General Fiction
Americanah is a contemporary fiction novel about race, immigration, and love…all centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face many difficult choices as they immigrate out of their home country.
Ifemelu and Obinze meet each other and fall in love while they are teenagers attending school together. They both have big dreams about their futures and, like most Nigerians, have hopes to leave their home country for better lives abroad. Ifemelu gets the opportunity to move to America to study and finish her degree. In her part of the story, we see her many struggles with money, friendships, relationships….and something bigger, something she never had to deal with back home…race and what it’s like to deal with race while living in America.
“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.”
Ifemelu and Obinze had always hoped and planned to be together eventually in America….but sadly, he is never able to acquire permission to enter the county. As Ifemelu continues to struggle adjusting to life in America, she slowly begins to shut off contact with Obinze for fear that he won’t understand all that she has to overcome and deal with. Completely heartbroken, confused, and worried….Obinze begins a dangerous and underground life as an undocumented immigrant in London, trying to scrape by enough money to survive all while not being deported back to Nigeria.
“Alexa and the other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for for choice and certainty.”
Americanah follows the story and life of both characters and their unique challenges as immigrants in different countries. Years later….Ifelmelu, now a successful blog writer, and Obinze, a wealthy man back in Nigeria….are eventually reunited when Ifemelu decides to return “home” after 13 years in America.
This was a very enjoyable novel about race, race issues that are specific to America, the trials of immigration, and realities of being an immigrant. It’s also about love, friendship, expectations, and stark reality. I love reading international authors that can bring me to a different world and maybe even give me a very small glimpse of a different culture…and this one did just that.
I will say that for the first 75% of the book, I was pretty sure I’d give this a 5 star rating. The last 25% drug by a little bit for me with what felt like too many unnecessary details that didn’t feel important to the story of the characters. At some point, the book actually seemed to have a whole different tone and writing style….which kind of threw me off. The first parts of the book that I enjoyed so much had a very real life and honest feel to it. Then the last part of the story seemed to take on too much of a contemporary romance vibe and I’m not a huge fan of those type of stories in general. Overall, this was a solid 4 star read for me though. There are plenty of very interesting, often hard to discuss topics about race and race issues in this book. I’ll definitely be reading other books by this author in the future.
“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Americanah – Amazon