AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book Quote:

And she had ignored, too, the cement in her soul. Her blog was doing well, with thousands of unique visitors each month, and she was earning good speaking fees, and she had a fellowship at Princeton and a relationship with Blaine—“ You are the absolute love of my life,” he’d written in her last birthday card— and yet there was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, a bleakness and borderlessness. It brought with it amorphous longings, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she could be living, that over the months melded into a piercing homesickness.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (MAR 15, 2014)

Americanah is a wonderful epic saga of love, hair, blogs, racism in America, and life in Nigeria. It takes place over a period of about 15 years and is primarily about a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu and her first love, Obinze. The meaning of the word Americanah is a person who returns to Nigeria after spending time abroad.

The main part of the story takes place in a hair salon in Trenton, New Jersey. Ifemelu is on a fellowship at Princeton and the nearest place to get weaves is in Trenton. As she is getting her hair done she goes back in time and the reader gets filled in with her life story.

Ifemelu grew up in poverty in Lagos. She managed to go to university there and won a scholarship to Wellson, a college in Philadelphia. She struggles with money and finds it very difficult to get a job. When she does work, she sends money back home to her parents. Ifemulu’s primary job is as a nanny. She describes the dynamics of her employer’s marriage as “she loves him and he loves himself.” She is introduced to her employer’s cousin Curt and Ifemelu and he have a relationship for quite a while. His being white and rich cause some difficulties for them.

Ifemelu cuts off all contact with Obinze despite the fact that they had planned to be together. She had made a choice to do something that left her shamed and abased and she is unable to tell Obinze about it. So, rather than tell him, she severs their contact. He is distraught and does not know what to do. He continues to write to her for months but there is no answer from Ifemelu.

Meanwhile, Obinze goes to London where he lives underground after his six month visa expires. He is working construction and continues to do this until he is deported back to Nigeria.

Ifemelu remains in the United States for 13 years and has a series of relationships with different men. Of significance besides Curt, who is white, is Blaine who is African American and a professor at Yale. Theirs is a long-term relationship that Ifemelu breaks off in order to return to Lagos.

Ifemelu has started a blog called “Raceteenth: Understanding America for the non-American black.” She writes anonymously about varied topics of racism that she encounters in the United States and the differences between being African American and a non-American black person. Her blog is very successful and brings her status and money as people make financial contributions to keep the blog going. She also does speaking engagements about topics she covers in her blog.

The book has many characters in it, each of whom we come to know and connect with. However, it is primarily about Ifemelu and Obinze, their lives and love. I found the book fascinating and very readable. It does not ever let go of the messages that the author seeks to provide the reader. Racism is a constant theme in the book as is life in America for black Americans and non-American blacks. I found the theme of blogging as a way to share knowledge very intriguing. Actual blogs are a part of the book.

Adiche is a wonderful writer. Her short stories, all of which I’ve read, have knocked me out. I plan on reading her other novels. I can see why this brilliant woman has received a MacArthur Genius Award.   Highly recommended

AMAZON READER RATING: from 511 readers
PUBLISHER: Anchor; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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March 15, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Theme driven, Unique Narrative, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

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