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  • Elizabeth Garcia

My Reading of Americanah by Chimamanda Ndozi Adichie

I’m the kind of reader that when I see a particular book being talked about all over the place I become curious and want to find out what all the hype is really about. Chimamanda Ndozi Adichie’s Americanah was exactly this type of book. Granted by now I’m late to the party and this is no longer a new book, but it still pops up as a must-read. So what better time to catch up with some of my curiosity reading than during a pandemic. As soon as I began reading I immediately understood at least one reason for all of the praise for this book. The writing is just rich and beautiful. It’s the kind of writing that forces you to slow down to enjoy the views created by the author’s exquisite capacity to describe any kind of environment or location, whether it be New York City or Lagos, Nigeria. I particularly enjoyed the parts of the novel taking place in Nigeria, a place I’ve never been to or know much about, but nonetheless Adichie was able to incorporate enough nuance that I could learn about some of the country’s political history and culture. The novel revolves around two main characters Ifemelu and Obinze, whose love story began while they were university students in Nigeria. Obinze dreams of going to America one day and has bought into the romanticized ideas about American greatness. Yet it’s Ifemelu who ends up going to the United States and spending fifteen years before she returns to Nigeria. The novel switches between their two stories following their respective lives. Ifemelu settles in the United States, creates a successful blog about race from the perspective of a non-American Black person, and engages in various romantic relationships that always leave her feeling like she’s had to compromise her authentic self. Denied a visa to the United States, Obinze goes to England to try his luck there, where he ends up overstaying his visa, becoming an undocumented immigrant, and is eventually deported back to Nigeria. The driving force of the novel is learning what will happen when these two are finally reunited in Nigeria. Will Ifemelu be too much of an Americanah (a Nigerian that has become Americanized) to be able to readapt to her native country? Will Obinze turn against the family and wealth he’s created in Ifemelu’s absence? While on the one hand the romantic storyline is the one that kept me reading, it was the cultural and racial commentary that was most compelling. What does immigration, assimilation, and race mean for African immigrants? How does their relationship to blackness outside of the history of slavery and U.S. oppression complicate our notions of race? Americanah will have you thinking about these long after you’re done reading it and for me, this definitely makes it worthy of all the praise.

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