Published by Fourth Estate on February 27th 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a powerful story of love, race and identity.
As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world.
Americanah is a love story that builds a bridge between distant continents, clashing cultures, and between two young people swept into foreign worlds. Books on immigration are always torn between hope and despair. This is a story of identity, of racism, of inequality, of homesickness, and – most of all – of following your dreams.
“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.”
The core of this book runs true. Adichie is a master at ripping of your shaded sunglasses and making you look at how the world, reality, and the truth really looks like. Her writing is raw and direct, lending Ifemelu a powerful voice. Ifemelu is an interesting character, and though not all of her choices were understandable, it was easy to feel pity, shame, and guilt on behalf of the white race. Though I am a white person, I feel like Adichie reflected on the issue of being ‘other’ on the outside, of being faced with daily racism, quite well. The parts featuring Ifemelu’s blog are enlightening regarding her character and the main themes of the book. Americanah taught me that black does not equal black, that there’s a difference between being an African-American or simply African.
Though the read was enjoyable overall, I felt a bit conflicted afterwards. Due to the synopsis, I had expected this book to equally capture Ifemelu’s struggle overseas and upon her return home to Nigeria, but somehow, a vast part of Americanah concentrated on her life in the United States, on various boyfriends and inner conflicts, on dealing with racist comments and unknown environments and financial survival. So, it is perhaps because I had a false idea of the plot that I ended up not loving this as much as I had hoped I would.
For me, the read was also a bit slowgoing in certain parts. What bothered me was that quite a few dialogues or descriptions in this book had no impact on the plot whatsoever, for example discussions between the characters which books they liked, or where to go out, and so on and so forth. It’s strange that this would irk me as I’ve read other books where every single action was described in detail and yet I wasn’t bored. Perhaps the Adult genre evokes less patience for such detours in the plot than YA. Also, it’s possible I didn’t grasp the statement Adichie was trying to deliver with these overly redunandant passages, but I just didn’t make the connection between those random parts and the rest of the story.
Americanah is an enlightening, thoughtful book told from the view of a Nigerian woman, as she goes away, comes home, and reflects on her path across the Atlantic and back. I’d say this book just didn’t suit my taste, though I’d definitely recommend it to readers who’re interested in topics like racism, immigration struggle, or African culture.