Title : Americanah
Author : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Year of Publication : 2013
Publisher : Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
I am in awe of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (see The New Mentors) and I have done my due diligence following her works and documented public appearances. I say this because reading Americanah makes me wonder how similar Ifemelu is to the author in real life.
Americanah is a novel about race, love, and immigration. It also discusses politics as it relates to race in America. Interestingly, the political discuss in this novel have become more prominent especially with regards to identity politics. This book is full and enjoyable. Every now and then I get carried away thinking how brilliantly written this novel is. Its like receiving an interesting lecture on effective writing skills but the lecture is artistically delivered by the best movie director there is. I was taken aback by the narrative depth of this novel. A times too detailed and I wonder why so much of those needed telling since a large percentage them did not surface later in the book . Having said that, being that I have not lived in Nigeria in a very long time, I find the details endearing. They help present a near perfect picture of my days growing up in Nigeria. Similarly, Americanah is very descriptive and rightly so since it discusses life in Nigeria and America through the lenses of the main protagonist (Ifemelu).
I am proud of myself that I finally summed up the courage to finish this book. I skimmed through this novel earlier but the vivid descriptions of certain characters especially within the context of immigration was a bit to challenging for me. It was quite surreal and I suppose that is why it was unreadable for me at first try. I knew some of the character too well. I have been and am a few of the characters. I have dated some of the characters. I have faced and would still face some of the challenges some of the characters in the novel faced. Americanah , for me is like looking into a mirror. A mirror that reflects me as an amalgamation of my past and predicts my future including the challenges to come. Challenges I look forward to by the way. In some cases they are signs of progress.
Lessons from Americanah
Young first love is never linear. Ambitious young lovers looking to explore the world in search for growth prospects need to accept the fact that they would meet other people that are as fascinating, intriguing and interesting as their partners. The path of progress is filled with people of substance. Substance; my friends, is sexy and hard to resist. Circumstances would also affect your relationship. In fact, you would be lucky to end up like Efemelu and Obinze. That is, having been through numerous other relationships and a divorce.
Life is not linear. This novel is an epic fifteen years span account of Ifemelu’s life and the numerous characters she interacted with during this period. As you follow the narrative and get familiar with the characters, you begin to understand the various characters, set your own expectations for them but quickly realize the road to success is often filled with ups and downs.
All blacks are the same in America. We know that African Americans are down the race ladder here in the United States. As discussed in the novel, African immigrants come to this country to inherit the prejudices that already exist about African Americans. Remember that racism is often based on ignorance and generalizations made based on a “single story”.
So don’t fight it non-American blacks. You are now BLACK.
Lastly, this book is about courage and sacrifice. In fact, both trends seemed apparent in almost all the characters discussed in the novel. Over the course of the novel, the “successful” characters had to make hard decisions in order to achieve whatever they really desired. In this novel, compromise seemed to always lead to misery.
In conclusion, Americanah, has been on the market for a few years so I doubt I would be spoiling much if I said more about the book. But for those yet to read this novel, this is a love story with great social commentary on race, immigration and relationships. It is quite voluminous but with the superb writing skills of Chimamanda, one gets through the novel easily.