I finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the other day and have slightly mixed feelings about it, though overall I really enjoyed it. The book centers on Ifemelu, a woman who decides to return to her home country of Nigeria after moving to the United States as a college student, becoming a citizen, and living there for 13 years.
What interested me most about this book was the way Adichie explored race, identity, and class through Ifemelu’s experiences. For instance, the reader learns that Ifemelu never considered herself to be black and never considered race growing up in Africa. Race only became real to her when she moved to America and learned she was black. Ifemelu struggled to find a place for herself within her college and community. She felt out of place because she was Non-American Black, not African American. To help analyze her thoughts, feelings, and experiences, Ifemelu starts a blog to explore these topics. The blog eventually becomes very popular and she is able to earn a living from it. She comes to live a pretty charmed life, if you measure her life on the American Dream Scale: she came to America with next to nothing and struggled to find her place, yet was able to carve out a place for herself and thrive.
Adichie describes Ifemelu’s childhood in great detail as well, and we get to know Obinze, Ifemelu’s boyfriend through most of her secondary schooling years and some of her college years in America. Their strong bond is tested as they search to find their own paths, lose touch with each other, and then come together more than a decade later.
This book completely captured me up until the last 50-75 pages. Without giving anything away, I felt the story was so strong and rich. Adichie’s characters and words led me to consider topics like race and privilege in a new way, which made reading the book interesting and eye-opening. I realized I don’t read books written by diverse authors featuring diverse characters enough. But the very end of the book dissolved a bit for me. While the end of the book by no means ruined the reading experience, I can’t help but wish the ending had gone in a slightly different direction.
Either way, Americanah is a book I would absolutely recommend, and, in fact, I did recommend it to my mother-in-law, who also read and loved the book (but had similar feelings about the end of the book as me!). This book will forever serve as a reminder to step out of my comfort reading zone.
Before moving on completely, I have also heard wonderful things about Adichie’s Tedx Talk “We Should All Be Feminists,” which I am about to go watch riiiiiiight NOW. You can watch it too.