“Americanah” is one of the best books I’ve ever read and it’s written by one of our own, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s an awesome book of great impact and importance.
This book is about the African diasporic experience in the USA and England, woven around the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze, teenagers attending a Nigerian university who have to leave the country because of the university strikes in Nigeria (I’m sure you Akokites can understand). Ifemelu moves to the United States, where she attends an American university and starts a blog dealing with race issues in America, while Obinze moves to England and ends up becoming an illegal immigrant.
The book brings up the controversial issues of race and immigration in the Untied States. The difference between being black in Africa and being black in the States is brought up as Adichie is very aware at the subtleties between cultures. An example is people’s pity when they realize you’re African, and their need to talk about their charitable donations to the continent . I’m sure a few of you that have traveled out can relate with this embarrassing ordeal:
“Ifemelu wanted, suddenly and desperately, to be from the country of people who gave and not those who received, to be one of those who had and could therefore bask in the grace of having given, to be among those who could afford copious pity and empathy.”
Being a recently-turned afro-ganger (I’m still hoping on my lowcut to grow lol), I was pleased about Adichie bringing up the topic of natural hair:
“I have natural kinky hair. Worn in cornrows, Afros, braids. No, it’s not political. No, I am not an artist or poet or singer. Not an earth mother either. I just don’t want relaxers in my hair…By the way, can we ban Afro wigs at Halloween? Afro is not costume, for God’s sake.”
That part made me laugh.
I also loved the fact that Adichie talked about Africans deciding to return to Africa after having lived abroad. This is something that happens with impunity, Africans hurrying to go to US or England (the supposed paradise) and then not finding satisfaction there because they’re disconnected from their roots:
“And yet there was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, a bleakness, a borderlessness. It brought with it amorphous longings, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she had lived.”
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, not all Africans in the diaspora are running from Africa in search of the golden fleece; many have questioned what they are doing abroad in the first place and want to move back home. What most people don’t realize is that Africa is growing and developing and that people might actually be happy to live here.
I love books that tell a story but are still very much in tune with the present situation. Americanah captured beautifully well the life of a Nigerian and I’m sure anyone who picks it up can relate to it as controversial issues some writers shy away from are audaciously discussed.
I highly recommend this book! 🙂
Adeyemi Christianah from the Law Class of “17 enjoys writing, reading and photography…(and eating). She loves the idea that with books, one can live in another reality and encourages everyone to pick up a book today!