Cheers Book Club ….. Americanah

Title : Americanah

Author : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Year of Publication : 2013

Genre: Fiction

Publisher : Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

http://www.cheersstories.com/cheers-book-club-americanah/

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.

 

Cheers

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

2 thoughts on “Cheers Book Club ….. Americanah”

  1. Adichie’s work provides a significant and invaluable perspective for supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement as it demonstrates towards a white audience what exactly blacks in America face on a daily basis. Adichie utilizes the Non-American perspective of the main character, blog post entries, and juxtaposition between Nigerian and American life to effectively illustrates the black experience and the challenges they face in America that a white audience might not be aware of.
    Because Ifemelu is Nigerian and not from the United States, her point of view on American culture and society provides a fresh, non-American perspective that aids the audience in understanding what aspects of American culture are problematic. When you are born and raised in a single culture it is often difficult to discern what aspects of it are not universal norms that you might believe are universally acceptable. Because many white Americans are born in raised into the “American tribalism hierarchy of race” as Adichie calls it, many fail to see that the treatment of minorities, specifically black Americans, is drenched in prejudice and discrimination. Ifemelu’s experience in America as someone from a foreign land provides white Americans with a hidden insight into their own culture, such as how the phrase “I know” here in America “profess[es] agreement rather than knowledge”(p 4). Furthermore, she juxtaposes her Nigerian life with her American experience to show the cultural differences in treatment of race in the two countries. In Nigeria, where everyone was black, no one was “black”, they were just humans. However, upon coming to America, Ifemelu becomes aware of her blackness and how she is thus treated differently than others during her time here. By showing the white audience this difference, Adichie enables them to see the validity in the argument that racial discrimination and prejudice still do permeate American culture, even if it’s not as apparent as in the 1960s.
    Adichie illustrates much of Ifemelu’s experience in America through her daily routine interactions. Throughout much of the book, you follow her through bus trips, hair appointments, and at shopping centers, and see the way different races, both white and black, treat her. These examples of daily actions show that the issue of racism is prevalent throughout the daily lives of black Americans and that it’s not isolated to big outrageous acts of prejudice. The embedded prejudice of many white Americans becomes apparent in passing comments, looks and side interactions every day. Racism does not just appear in the form of blazing crosses and segregated bathrooms anymore. Because Adichie illustrates the racism Ifemelu suffers in small interactions, it enables the white audience to look past their own personal experiences and see that just because they don’t see blatant racism, doesn’t mean black Americans don’t face it subtly every day. By looking at the common daily interactions of a black America, the white audience can see that other people’s life experiences vary greatly from their own. A white reader can easily compare their own experience with Ifemelu’s and realize the stark contrast in how they are treated compared to her, and through this the white audience can see that their own experiences are not universal for everyone, and that many people’s lives are filled with suffering.
    Adichie includes Ifemelu’s blog posts that provide realistic insight into the black experience. The succinct and blunt nature of the posts often shocks the reader, as there’s no fluff and no room to spare feelings in them. Detailing American Tribalism, “In America, tribalism is alive and well…there’s a ladder of racial hierarchy…white is always on top…American black is always on the bottom”(p. 227), Adichie exposes rather bluntly who gets preferential treatment in the United States. From a white audience member’s perspective, this news is often rejected as many believe that racism is no longer an issue in our society since segregation was legally abolished. However, this short and concise expression of the social hierarchy in America along with her justification for her claims effectively tears down the “racism no longer exists” argument and forces the audience member to see that blacks are still discriminated against. Adichie also includes the excerpt, “Most of all, don’t be angry about racism. Otherwise you get no sympathy…the conservative will tell you that YOU are the real racist and your mouth will hang open in confusion” (p. 275) that shows that blacks have to act a certain way to please whites, otherwise they will be portrayed or thought of in a negative light. This “instruction guide” for blacks on how to talk about racism is effective when trying to reach a white audience member because it forces them to consider their own role and reactions to the conversation of racism. By realizing that these statements apply to their own life, they are able to see the role their white privilege plays in the discussion of racism.
    Whether we want to accept it or not, racism is still deeply embedded in our country. Although it may no longer appear in the form of Jim Crow laws or lynching, the daily life of a black American is still filled with prejudiced interactions with white Americans. Adichie’s Americanah utilizes the story of Ifemelu, a story told in fiction that is rooted in the common experiences of black Americans, to expose the discriminatory treatment that still exists to a white audience that all too often refuses to see the truth. Through this novel, the Black Lives Matter movement has an opportunity to reach white audience members and the resource to show them the reality of black lives here in America.

    1. Thank you for your comment Taylor McKeown
      Your review is quite in-depth and very much appreciated.
      Kind regards
      Cheers

Comments are closed.