"Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze met and fell in love as teenagers in Lagos, Nigeria. Their days were filled with typical teenage going-ons but life under a military dictatorship was no easy one and all of their friends dreamt of going overseas. When Ifemelu is granted the opportunity to head to America to study, she takes it, planning that Obinze will join her there as soon as he can. But immigration has changed since 9/11 and America won't let him in. Instead, he heads to England, where things don't turn out the way he thought it all would.
America isn't what Ifemelu expected either but after suffering a few setbacks, she makes her way through. The only thing she can't shake is something she never had to deal with back home - the issue of race. Life for an immigrant Black is much different for Blacks born in America and Ifemelu begins to document these differences in a blog that eventually becomes known as "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black."
Her blog becomes wildly successful but eventually Ifemelu feels the pull back to Nigeria. She returns to find out that Obinze has as well only now he is married and a father. As Ifemelu rebuilds her life back home, she tries to avoid Obinze but eventually her feelings become too much. As their passion re-ignites, they must make some painful decisions, some of the hardest of their already difficult lives.
Americanah is the latest novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This novel crosses three continents and many years to share a story of love, race, and identity. It is a book of observations - of Nigeria, of America, of people who leave and people who stay, of race, politics, and relationships.
I loved this book. This is one of those books that you pick up, not knowing what it's about but knowing it's going to be good because of the author and once again, Adichie did not disappoint. Her writing draws you in, the book is over 400 pages long and yet through the entire thing, all I could think of was, "I don't want this to end." You never feel like it's too long or that it drags on. With the turn of each page, I was just reminded how much closer I was to the end and how I didn't want that to happen.
This is a book that looks at a culture of not talking about what is in front of us, and she talks about it openly and honestly. I've had my own experiences with race in America and it's very different from my experiences at home (not in a good or bad way but just different.) It's a culture that is at times difficult to understand but Adichie really hits on what is going on. This experience of seeing it through outsiders eyes makes this book accessible to all.
As this book shows, race is still a tricky subject to talk and write about. And yet Adichie touches on so much of it without being heavy-handed, insulting, or patronizing. There are many observations in this book that will get you thinking and talking (I can't tell you the number of times I had to pause and read aloud to my husband.) But it also goes beyond social commentary and is a coming of age story that will very quickly become known as one of the great love stories written in our time. A five-star book that is deserving of all of the praise that is headed its way.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.