Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Paperback, 2014

Call number

FIC ADI

Collection

Genres

Publication

Anchor (2014), 588 pages

Description

"A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected"--

Media reviews

The stories have shifted, too. Nowadays, there’s little angsting about national identity in a post-colonial context or, for that matter, over catastrophe and want. Instead, a bevy of young Africans are shaping the future of fiction, reportage and critique on their continent, and perhaps well beyond. “It’s beyond an evolution — it’s a revolution,” says Nigerian-American Ikhide Ikheloa, a critic and prominent observer of the scene. It may have begun in 2003, when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published — and not just by an American publisher but by a Nigerian one, too. By now, Adichie is the still-young doyenne of the contemporary African lit scene. Her recent novel, Americanah, found a perch on the New York Times list of top 10 novels of 2013 — just weeks before Beyoncé sampled one of Adichie’s TED talks on her new album. Read more: Printed in Africa | Fast forward | OZY
2 more
But what makes the book such a good read—despite an anticlimactic ending—is that it's not meant as a cultural criticism, but more as a series of rich observations.
“Americanah” examines blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain, but it’s also a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience — a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations.

User reviews

LibraryThing member parhamj
I admit: I am a privileged, middle-class, American white girl who often wonders why skin color has such a prominent role in our society. It has always felt like such a superficial way to identify ourselves; to make choices about our lives. After all, we are all part of one species (although I often wonder if teenaged boys can technically be classified as Homo sapiens), and regardless of the pigmentation in your skin, no one person's blood is any redder than another's. With this philosophy ruling my life, reading a book like Americanah was in a word: illuminating. I dove into a world I could never hope to understand given my background, and I came away with a new appreciation for the challenges of establishing an identity.

Because while Americanah is billed as a love story - and there is definitely a contemporary romance involved - I felt like this incredible novel was more about the search for identity, and what one ultimately chooses to use as part of their identity. The book does follow the young adult lives of Ifemelu and Obinze, children and teenagers in Nigeria who fall deeply in love while attending college together. Ifemelu has the opportunity to go to America, and though she is ambivalent about the move, Obinze convinces her to go. Obinze, who so desperately wants to go to America himself, and dreams that he will join Ifemelu in the land of opportunity one day.

Ifemelu arrives in the wilds of Philadelphia, and is suddenly hit with a new reality: in this world, where skin color varies from palest white to darkest black, part of your identity is established for you by your skin color. In Nigeria, as Ifemelu herself states, there is no such thing as "being black"; skin color is just not part of a world in which everyone has the same hue. But now, in America, Ifemelu not only faces this concept of "being black," but she also finds the idea is even further divided into "American black" and "non-American black." Astonished, bewildered, and curious about a new approach to identity, Ifemelu's journey through her life in America leads to the start of a successful "race blog" where she chronicles her observations on life as a self-proclaimed "non-American black" and what that means in black America.

Meanwhile, Obinze finishes his schooling in Nigeria and tries to join Ifemelu in America, but is thwarted both by immigration regulations and Ifemelu's sudden severing of contact. Instead he makes his way to London where he tries to establish citizenship through the dark underworld of illegal immigration only to find himself deported back to Nigeria. Lost and heartbroken, Obinze searches out a way to establish himself and his life without Ifemelu.

It is easy to dismiss Americanah as a contemporary romance - two people separated by circumstance who overcome insurmountable obstacles to reunite – but that would be doing this novel a disservice. Ifemelu and Obinze are star-crossed lovers for sure, but they each undertake their own journeys to establish an identity: Ifemelu as a "black" in America, and Obinze as one-half of a lover's whole. And that is the real love story here. I'm about to go all Whitney Houston, but it is the message I walked away with: the greatest love is to love yourself. Both Ifemelu and Obinze have to decide which characteristics they want to use as part of their identities. If and when they do that, then they have the chance for happiness together.

But illumination? As a privileged, middle-class, American white girl? I had no idea, and in so many ways could never hope to have a real solid idea because of my whiteness, how much "being black" is part of the black American consciousness. How deeply entrenched "being black" is in the identity of American blacks (at least according to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). I mean I don't identify as white. I identify myself as a teacher, an animal lover, a writer, a reader... I never think of myself as white. And I have always wondered why the color of my skin – the color of anyone’s skin – should be part of my identity. Now I understand. Or I should say I am more aware. The distinction in skin color has led to cultural and social division, and if you are “non-white,” then your non-whiteness means more than just additional pigment in your epidermis. It is a part of your culture, your social structures, your background. Your identity. Being white may not necessarily mean anything, but being black, brown, or any other variation of non-white does. Our all-encompassing, welcoming American society has made it so.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Americanah is the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who fall in love in high school, but go their separate ways when Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to study in the United States. Ifemelu initially struggles financially, taking desperate measures to make ends meet. She also has difficulty forming meaningful relationships, and understanding what makes the American man “tick.” As a non-American black, Ifemelu has a unique perspective on racism and is surprised by the viral popularity of her blog, but quickly builds a reputation as a voice of authority. Meanwhile, Obinze also comes of age and experiences his own challenges with immigration and money, in his case in Britain. Both eventually return to Nigeria, at different times and under different circumstances. Most of the book is devoted to each character individually, through alternating sections. Over time, their separate paths converge.

I had a hard time putting this book down, for a couple of reasons. First, it was a platform for Adichie to explore the immigrant experience and issues of race in America. I gained insight to race issues in ways I hadn’t thought about before. Second, I loved the story of Ifemelu and Obinze's relationship. I understood why, early on, Ifemelu decided to put Obinze at arm's length. The journey that led Ifemelu back to Nigeria also led her back to Obinze, but of course things had changed -- in the country, and in each of them. Adichie kept me guessing about the outcome all the way to the last page. But when I got there, it was just right.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
This book, to my mind, should have won the most recent Bailey's Prize. The main character, Ifemelu, is intelligent, perceptive, assertive and brave. She's also judgmental and hypocritical,cynical where she should be accepting and accepting where she should be cynical. She's a fascinating and infuriating character, one of her lines sums her up "racism shouldn't have existed in the first place so just because you're doing something about it now doesn't mean you get a cookie." Youch. Being a white American around Ifemelu doesn't get one any prizes or any recognition of effort. This book keeps you on your toes and wanting to read more about her opinions, in spite of her doctrinaire pronouncements.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookmagic
I really fell for all the hype. I can see why there was so much. This novel has a lot of interesting commentary. But, ultimately, it is a novel, which means that there needs to be a good story. And there isn't one. It is supposed to be about two lovers and the different paths they take before the reunite. This could have been two separate novels. Neither character is really that developed. Ifemelu just becomes whoever her current boyfriend wants her to be. But she is a blogger who writes about race and these commentaries are interesting. Perhaps the author should have written a non-fiction book. Though she over-generalizes, it seems. She had me fooled until about 3/4 of the way though when I finally decided to call bullshit on this. I think the plethera of 5 star reviews are a combination of white, liberal guilt and the fact that her previous novels may actually be good. This is NOT an award-winning novel. Any decent reviewer should have pulled it apart.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tess_Elizabeth
I wanted to love this book, but the pacing for me was too slow, and the characters got lost in long vignettes of observation. It was interesting and I loved learning about Nigeria and seeing America through a different lens, I just wish the editing had been stronger, making it a tighter, more readable book
LibraryThing member csoki637
I really enjoyed the subjects she explored and the commentary she provided — on immigration, on unemployment, on the different ways immigrants relate to their new and old cultures, of being between cultures, on America, on Nigeria, on London, on going back home, on visa issues, on racial dynamics between African-Americans and Africans in America — but I was disappointed by her narration in this book. It felt far too long and could have been much better edited (a number of times the same phrase popped up in a way that did not seem intentional, and some of the romance storyline was just plain cheesy), which is a common problem for authors once they become popular. While I did love many aspects of the book, it wasn't overall as good as I had hoped it to be. Her previous two novels were gripping; Americanah was, occasionally, tiresome.… (more)
LibraryThing member quiBee
This was an excellent book written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, telling about two people, high school sweethearts in Nigeria, who are separated by events in their lives, one ending up in the States, the other, an illegal immigrant in England, before being deported and having to make his own way in Nigeria.
The female voice, Ifemelu, felt particularly true to life and gave a very powerful picture of life as a African migrant to America, who never noticed race until she came to that country, when it became all important.
The narrator, Adjoa Andoh, was extremely good.
4.5 stars
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LibraryThing member chrissie3
There are two central themes to this book; it is both a love story and an in-depth look at what it is to be black, today, in America and in Nigeria. It also looks at how it is to be young in today’s world – a world of computers and cellphones and blogs and, on a more general level, how people interrelate with each other.

Different readers will be drawn to different aspects of the novel. The love story did not draw me in. It begins with a “coming of age” attraction between two teenagers in Lagos, Nigeria. The story goes full circle and ends on the same note, back in Nigeria and back with these two, Obinze and Ifemelu. Will they find each other at the end? And if they do, at what cost to others? That this aspect of the novel did not attract me is not to say that it was poorly written, but only that my interests lay elsewhere, given my particular past experiences and age.

What did interest me is Adichie’s penetration of race, racial bigotry and inequality. Obinze and Ifemelu are separated. Ifemelu goes to the America with her aunt, but after 9/11 Obinze cannot get into America and immigrates to London. Political turmoil in Nigeria and the impossibility of getting a good education at home is what forces both abroad. Both experience how it is to be without family in a foreign country as an immigrant, Obinze an illegal immigrant. Ifemelu learns what it is to be an African Black in North America. Both flounder. The central themes remain love relationships and race.

As with all books it is the reader’s own experiences that influence how one perceives a book’s content. How do I compare my own immigrant experiences with those portrayed in the novel and why are they different? To what extent are blacks discriminated against in the US today in comparison to Europe? I look with admiration at the US and think how wonderful it is that Obama, a black could become president. That does say something, no matter how you twist or turn it. That Adichie isn’t satisfied, that she reveals to me, a non-black, the inequalities that still remain is only admirable. Through her characters you come to understand on a ground level the inequalities that remain. You understand on a personal level. One example: in all the women’s magazines there are article after article about what eye shadow works best for brown or blue or green eyes, but what if you have black eyes? There are full discussions of what to do with straight, wavy or curly hair, but where is there help for kinky hair? Yeah, there STILL isn’t total equality, total acceptance of all our differences. I like that the book made me more aware of what is to be black on a daily basis. There is also the difference of being a Black-American and the difference of being a Non-American Black. Being colored, Hispanic versus African versus Asian, are all different. A Black-American lives with the baggage of historical discrimination in the US.

Narration of the audiobook by Adjoa Andoh is excellent, albeit a bit difficult for those, like me, who are not accustomed to the many different black accents. I had to listen carefully. I am glad I had a chance to do this through this audiobook.

I believe how you will react to this book will be determined by the theme that most draws your attention. You may be enthralled by the love story or like me just interested in current racial and immigrant injustices.

Completed June 9, 2013
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LibraryThing member debnance
I've read Adichie twice before and both times I was drawn into her big-and-yet-small, exotic-and-yet-universal stories.

This book was different.

Maybe there are some readers who like diatribes mixed with their stories. Not this readers. I find myself, time and again, just starting to ease into the characters when up would pop a blog post from the main character or a dinner party conversation and I'd suddenly feel like my channel had been switched and some fellow was standing there, ranting about An Important Issue.

Had I been her editor (not that I'm worthy) I'd have cut all the rants and I'd have kept all the lovely pages where the characters experience the terrible cruelties of life.

Just the small frustrations of a small reader: Please don't lecture me. Please don't preach. Just tell your story and all the rest will follow.
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LibraryThing member mjlivi
A fascinating book with lots of complex and thoughtful things to say about race, class and the modern world. The plot was the weakest part of the book, with the love story a bit shallow and over the top, but within the constraints of the story, Adichie explores race in ways that were invigorating and powerful.
LibraryThing member St.CroixSue
A powerful take on what it is like to be an African immigrant in the US; to experience racism and American culture as a non-American Black coming from a place where black racism doesn’t exist. To see through the narrator’s eyes, from her first day through several relationships and then back to her home in Lagos as an American citizen, was striking. Exceptional and acute discussions wrapped in a good story.… (more)
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Once again I am impressed by Adichie's writing. In some ways it felt as though I had read multiple novels at once, so completely developed are the varying threads and themes of her story. I can describe the themes of the novel as racism, immigration, thwarted love, cross-cultural reality, or simply as a metaphor for the journey of life, of love, of humanity. Let's face it. There is nothing new about being human, but Adichie describes it really well. The protagonist's journey from Nigeria to the USA and back to Nigeria was punctuated by her insightful and often cutting observations of ridiculous and/or offensive behavior on the part of others. Ouch! Good read!!… (more)
LibraryThing member whitreidtan
This is the first book I've read by Adichie despite the fact that I have her others on my shelves. I have heard such raves about her work that it was almost as if I was afraid to read anything she wrote in case the actual works fell short. And this one, focused as it is on so many controversial issues present in our society today, was probably the one that appealed to me the least. And yet it turned out to be such a beautiful, thoughtful, and powerful novel that I am glad that I didn't just add it to my shelf and figure I'd get to it some future day like so many others.

Centered mainly on Ifemelu, a smart and attractive Nigerian woman, this is a story of incredible depth which addresses many hot-button, polemical topics. It is a novel about race and culture, immigration, lack of opportunity, both in America and in Nigeria, exoticism and otherness, women's place and value in the world, relationship, love, and politics to name just a few. It does not shy away from presenting the reality of both the marginalized and the successful; it skewers all sides, conservatives and liberals alike, for their beliefs and their unthinking acceptance of their side's rhetoric. It changes the conversation and brings a fascinating outside perspective to many long standing arguments.

Ifemelu is raised in Nigeria. Her family is well off and she has many opportunities open to her. She meets Obinze while in high school and the two of them seem to be soul mates. When political unrest causes upheaval at the universities, Ifemelu decides that she will finish her schooling in America, where her beloved aunt has gone. Obinze plans to follow her there but he is frustrated in his efforts and instead ends up in London, illegal and struggling. Ifemelu, meanwhile, goes to America and is shocked at the reality she finds. She struggles to adjust to this new culture with its unwritten and unacknowledged rules and to the laws that restrict her ability, as a foreign student, to support herself while she attends school. She sees firsthand inequalities and insurmountable stumbling blocks every way she turns. Even when she finds work as a nanny, she witnesses casual racism and the assumption that because she is African rather than African-American that she is exotic and intriguing and somehow more. She draws attention to the differences in the ways that African blacks and African-Americans are treated and the way that even well meaning liberals just don't "get it." As she navigates life in America, having relegated Obinze to her past, dating American men, starting a wildly successful blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black, getting her green card, and having the luxury of choosing the extent to which she wants to integrate into American society and how much she wants to retain her own cultural identity, she never quite lets go of hope for Nigeria. And eventually she chooses to make her way back there, to a much changed country, and one she now views with very different eyes than she once did.

Obinze's story of his time in London, always yearning for Ifemelu and America, is told in chapters interspersed with the many chapters about Ifem's life. His is a terrible, distressing story, even moreso than her early years in America. Where Ifemelu overcame much of what she faced, happy-go-lucky, popular Obinze does not and he is ultimately deported back to Nigeria. In the end he thrives in his own country where he could not succeed elsewhere. And as his country changes, he adapts with it, fulfilling and even surpassing his early promise. But he still feels as if he is treading water, not knowing what is missing from his outwardly perfect life. It is, of course, the newly returned to Nigeria Ifemelu, opinionated and determined as ever.

Adichie has written an accessible novel that encourages readers to examine their own prejudices and beliefs but she has done so in a way to mitigate the discomfort of doing so enough that people won't automatically shut down in denial. She has not whitewashed life in America for immigrants, for people of color, or for the poor. But she has also acknowledged the imperfection of other places as well. Nigeria harbors prejudices, London harbors prejudices, America harbors prejudices; there is no prejudice free place here, instead there is almost an inherency of prejudice. Her writing is straightforward even if the solutions to the social ills she addresses are not. The chapters are non-chronological but not difficult to follow. Occasionally the non-linearity of the novel leads to some repetition and Ifemelu's blog posts, some of which are included in the narrative, often exactly mirror the plot. They do draw added attention to the issues that Ifemelu, and by extension Adichie, is highlighting but astute readers (and the assumption is that readers of literary fiction such as this are in fact astute readers) don't need the lack of subtlety in order to understand the point. But that's a minor quibble about a work that is masterfully done over all. Anyone who isn't afraid to confront troubling questions and bone deep assumptions will find much to consider here and will then need others to read it too so they can have the conversations it will inspire.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This is a smoothly written novel, telling much about Nigeria and the stresses that Nigerians who are able to get to the U.S. or England undergo. Ifemelu is able to come to the U.S. and succeeds at her studies and at blogging. Obinze is her Nigerian boyfriend who goes to England but is deported back to Nigeria, where he becomes rich and marries and has a child. When Ifemelu returns to Nigeria she and Obinze reunite. The story is interesting but one cannot condone the amoral behavior of the characters so I could not appreciate the novel even though it learnedly discusses many highbrow things. I read the book because it won the Book Critics Circle fiction award for 2013. It is the 28th such winner I have read. One wishes that the characters were more true to what they know should be done morally.… (more)
LibraryThing member novelcommentary
Recognized as a NYTimes top 5 fiction book for 2013, Adichie's novel explores the current day experiences of Nigerian immigrants. The main character, Ifemelu, travels to America to pursue her college education while her first boyfriend, Obinze attempts to find work in England. Ifemelu's narrative details her first rejections trying to find work, including a debasing experience which changes her forever. Much of her story is told in flashback as she sits in a hair salon in Trenton, New Jersey, going through the 6 plus hour experience of getting her hair done. Hair, and its connection to race, play an integral part in Ifemelu's story, and are quite illuminating to this Caucasian middle aged reader. Ifemelu begins to blog about her experiences and her insights into the differences between African American and American Africans gain her the recognition to winning a fellowship with Princeton. Interviews with Adichie let us know how autobiographical this experience is. Also and maybe thankfully, this novel is also a love story as Ifemelu's returns home to Nigeria to finally explore her feelings for Ceiling ( her name for Obinze. ) I would explain the nickname but its more fun to read the novel to see how he got it. I enjoyed the novel and found the insights into these experiences of African immigrants quite fascinating. I look forward to going back and reading Adichie's other novels, especially Half of a Yellow Sun.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookmuse56
A remarkable storyteller with a keen sense of observation, Adichie’s ambition novel is destined to become a classic of its time. In pitch-perfect tone the book expertly captures the world of Nigerians finding their way within their country and their immigration to the United States and Great Britain, exploring the concept of Blackness is a more universal sense, exploring what bonds us, what separates us and how these threads of sameness and differences are tentative and situational and often complicated by class and status. The most entrancing aspect for me is the Tocqueville-like manner Adichie chronicles the non-American Black experience in America via Ifemelu’s blog entries – what primer on an outsider looking in the American culture. A witty, warm, thought-provoking tale of how global and insular we are. I expect this book will be on many award lists.… (more)
LibraryThing member Narshkite
This book was not what I expected. It was witty, not laugh out loud funny but consistently amusing. It gave us in Ifemelu an interesting narrator who was smart and engaging, and also a bitch, and a prima donna, and a bully. Many current books/movies/shows about racism create these "all-American" Black characters which helps to highlight the idiocy of prejudice but also perpetuates a White standard for acceptable behavior (all-American is code for White.) This "Blacks! They're Just Like Us" approach assuages the guilt of White readers by making it okay to exclude or disapprove of Black people who don't live by that paradigm. Think The Cosby Show. Our protagonist here was multi-dimensional, seriously flawed, but interesting and funny and overall sort of likeable, and the empty "perfect" characters, the stereotypes come to life, were the White characters, Rich White Boyfriend (he is called that in the book) and every member of the family Ifemelu nannys for in undergrad. The book was also educational about Nigeria mostly. It was one of the more challenging books I have read in a good long time, and though flawed, it is a book that expands the reader.

It is as much a polemic on race, and the concept of race, as it is a story. Think Atlas Shrugged. (Not because the sociopolitical beliefs of Ayn Rand and Adichie have anything to do with one another, they don't, but because they both use a love story to draw in the reader and make the social commentary seem completely rational and unassailable.) Though I expect my politics align more with Adichie than with Rand, many of her tenets were flawed, or at very least arguable, and I, the reader, was made to feel stupid and/or racist if I did not accept her propositions as gospel. For one thing, the writer talks all about how there is no racism in Nigeria because most everyone is Black, but at the same time there are deep tribal divisions and a the divide between Igbo and Yoruba is based entirely on prejudices. That is the same thing as racism. We can call it tribalism or racism it is all the same thing. Why does this pass unremarked on? This sort of selectively incisive commentary pissed me off, but that does not change the fact that the discussion alone made me think about my own beliefs and observations in a constructive way, to challenge my assumptions. And if there is anything that Americans need to do it is to think about race without depending on lazy truisms. Many years ago I told a friend that I never looked at things in terms of race. She said;"You are so lucky that you have that option. For us Black folk everything is about race." That was the beginning of a new way of thinking for me, and I thought about that conversation a good deal while reading Americanah.

I mentioned it before, but I want to point out once again that there is a story here, and it is a good one. It is not one long op-ed. I recommend it strongly to all readers.
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LibraryThing member sberson
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, and one with a perspective that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Well worth reading.
LibraryThing member Tea58
Now I more fully understand what bloggers intend to write on their blogs. Because I understand does not mean I think a blogger's work is easy. I think it is as difficult as an architect who plans to build a large bridge. In Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ifemelu is the main character. Ifemelu's true home is Nigeria, Africa. When she comes to the United States, she develops a magnificent and observant eye to see the underbelly of race relations here. For me, it was amazing to read Ifemelu's blog entries. How in the world is she able to twist and pull Americans apart so gently but with a toughness too. Ifemelu has that gift to insult you and make you like it and laugh about it. Then, you walk away and scratch your head only to reread her article and try to understand where she is coming from, how did she dissect you so easily.

Next,the novel shifts from Ifemelu's professional work as a blogger to the relationships in her daily life. So there are really like two books in one in Americanah. There is also the shift in setting. Ifemelu is a world traveler. She visits England, America and touches back down in Nigeria. Therefore, her viewpoint is wide.

I especially liked the fact that towards the end Ifemelu travels back home from the United States. It is amazing to read how she settles back in her homeland with family and friends. I wondered had she grown as a person. I wondered would she feel more superior than the Nigerians, and I wondered how could she ever leave America and forget the friendships formed here. There are many questions that come to mind about a traveler going back home. Often authors write about their trip abroad, but how many write about their experiences after returning home. After all, Thomas Wolfe wrote, You Can't Go Home Again. Then, he wisely confuses the whole house of cards by writing, "Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen."

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie seems to agree with the great author, Thomas Wolfe. Once back in Nigeria, I feel she experienced a mix of feelings. In the United States, she experienced most anything done perfectly. For example, In America we don't put up with quick, shoddy work. Do it right or I have the right to report you to the Better Business Bureau. I have the right to take you to court and sue. I have the right to tell all my friends you were fired, and they should not trust you. As consumers, this is the expected reaction if work is poor. However, in countries growing and becoming progressive, there is a desire and a need to make many dollars quickly. Unfortunately, sometimes good work is sacrificed and not necessarily maliciously. Ifemelu experiences this when a worker uses broken tiles. Her new American self can not handle imperfection or slowness.In America, waiters dash around to please while in Nigeria Ifemelu asks for something from a menu. The waiter abruptly says, "no." No other explanation needed. Here, the waiter will try to get that for Mrs. or Mr. and get it in a hurry. So, of course, Ifemelu reacts.

At first, I felt a bit uncomfortable with Ifemelu's reaction. Is she being mean, plain spoken or is it the new twin inside of herself who can't help but speak up loudly. We, Americans, can be loud when we don't get her way. I adjusted to her reaction by writing it down in a meme. To me,. she proved herself a strong African woman and at the same time proved herself a new African American. Her values her switching back and forth between her old self and her new self. I imagined Ifemelu saying to herself, "did I become so angry at that worker?" Knowing Ifmelu she smiled to herself with pride and said yes. Then, she would think about writing a blog article about workers in the United States vs. workers in the new and rich Lagos, Nigeria or some other theme. Going back home does seem like Ifemelu doubles up and becomes two bodies in one or an atom that splits. There are two minds now instead of one. Crossing the sea one way and crossing back again to your childhood home. In the novel, Ifemelu and Obinze, friends who have grown up together discuss the differences. They compare their adult selves with their childhood selves. It is an interesting and intricately weaved web of their lives.

While in the United States, Ifemelu makes friends quickly with women and men. Her love relationships are great fun to read about. Sometimes there are breakups like in any relationship. I especially liked the way she handled the inter-racial relationships. There is one White, very rich guy. He treats Ifemelu well. For some reason he got on my last nerve and stamped on it. He seemed too jolly, too willing to always see the bright side of a rainy day. When Ifemelu leaves him, I am happy about her decision.

However, the relationship that tops the cake and will stay with me is the one with Obinze. Obinze will go from England back to Africa because of the intricacies of papers and immigration. He will marry and have children. I can only write that it is exciting and unexpected what will happen between Obinze and Ifemelu. Their relationship could have been a book in itself. I'm not sure Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won't pick Obinze up in another book.

Americanah is a big saga of some sort. Does Americanah end for me? No. One more word or two or three. I have to mention Aunty and Dike. This is America from a very young boy's place in life. It shocked me. It hurt me. It tore Ifemelu apart. She will fly him over to Nigeria. His coming home to Africa, his roots, brings me to think that Ms. Adichie is saying you can go home again, but take or bring some over to visit from he states. Let them experience the joyful roller coaster ride of experiencing two very different homelands in one lifetime like Ifemelu experienced it. wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimamanda_Ngozi_Adichie
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
The main character, Ifemelu, leaves Nigeria to join her Aunty Uju and son Dike, In New York City. She leaves her sweetheart, Obinze, behind but pledges herself to him and dreams of them being together in America. Life in America, as an immigrant, is not exactly as she had hoped it would be and she suddenly becomes aware of the color of her skin, an anomaly in Nigeria since they are all the same color there. Her “blackness” now becomes a part of her and her foreignness becomes somewhat of an obstacle and an invitation to engage in undesirable behavior.
Unable to find work, she compromises herself, and filled with shame, severs her relationship with Obinze, the love of her life, cutting off all contact, refusing to answer his calls or letters. Time goes by; she gets employment, finds new boyfriends, but soon grows disappointed with the way blacks are treated in America. She quits her job to create a blog to expose the difference between Non-American and American blacks and to fill the gap created by magazines that concentrate predominantly on providing information for white people. Her blog becomes very successful and she begins her climb up the ladder of success. Eventually, however, she grows disappointed with her life again (disappointment seems to be her constant returning companion), and she sells her blog and returns to Nigeria, reacquainting herself with her friends and, eventually, Obinze, also called “ceiling” by Ifemelu, and the Zed by his friends. He, too, has grown successful and is married with a child. He can be described possibly as content, but not as a happy man.
The book is largely about racism and Obama is featured as well. Ifemelu makes it a point to denounce those who don’t agree with her accusations of particular forms of racism, as in buzz words, advertising, employment, etc., as racists themselves. This is where I parted company with the book. The Progressive mantra that anyone who disagrees with or dislikes a person of color is racist was now falling on my deaf ears. It is sad that this foolishness has taken hold so firmly in a novel purporting to be about contrasting life in America with life in Nigeria and the black immigrant’s experience in America contrasted with the black American’s.
Fictional Ifemelu and her American boyfriend Blaine, fall into the category of Obamaphiles, voting for Obama simply because of his color, not his qualifications. It is too bad, since the country can be proven to have gone downhill with his time in office. He was not prepared for, nor does he seem to want to engage in, the necessary actions of a President, maintaining and supporting a strong America? It is impossible to judge their decision in the present; his legacy is still in the making.
Ifemelu is self consumed. She seems to appreciate little of the opportunity provided for her in America; her business success, her kind boyfriends, being able to cross color lines easily, and her economic good fortune are all simply expected. Contentment eludes her. America is a multi-cultural world, unlike Nigeria, and she finds herself feeling adrift at times, becoming Americanized in ways she dislikes, i.e., the way Americans speak in a lazy manner, with slang and improper grammar, with the way they comport themselves too casually and dress themselves in too risqué a manner. Ifemelu is, however, flighty in her own relationships, allowing herself to cross lines when she does not afford that privilege to others. Her judgment against those who offend her, sometimes in slight and unknowing ways, is severe, immediate and unforgiving. I often found her selfish and ungrateful, that although she extolled certain of the moral values of Nigeria, she failed to follow them herself. Other times, she recognized the necessity of unethical behavior in herself and her country, but not in other people or in America. The book simply put, seemed contrived to me, too filled with racism, when in fact, Ifemelu became successful, and she was accepted into white society far more gracefully than she accepted whites into hers. I suppose that makes me racist rather than honest, according to Ifemelu and Progressives.
Some accusations of racism seemed outlandish and overly sensitive like when dealing with the lexicon of words. Sassy was considered a racist adjective when directed toward a black person, according to Ifemelu and her Aunty. I never knew sassy to have any, but the most ordinary meaning of impish, feisty and playful.
Over sensitivity and finger pointing was rife throughout the book. She made many racist comments about whites and their behavior, but if you disagreed, as I do, you were labeled racist. It is a convenient excuse to cover one’s own inability to accomplish what one wants or for finding the road to hoe a difficult one. Whites and blacks find the road to hoe bumpy; she and other immigrants did not own the monopoly on that score. She resented America for Americanizing immigrants, she was unhappy about discovering her “blackness”, all bad habits developed were blamed on Americans, the same Americans who embraced them and gave them opportunity, rather than condemn their own poor judgment or choices.
Some of these same immigrants arrived in America, became street smart when taught by other immigrants, broke the law by assuming false identities, used fake social security cards, engaged in false marriages to get their citizenship, committed crimes to feed their families and then blamed America for their hardships and the changes they made in themselves.
Truthfully, this book did not endear me to Ifemelu’s plight or to her complaints, or to those of her Aunty. I thought they engaged in a good deal of self pity. Most of my mother-in-law’s family (Jewish) was murdered in Europe, and as Jews it was not easy to find work, but my father-in-law pushed and shoved clothing racks, in the garment center, when he got sick and lost his Navy Yard job. Neither of them blamed America for their plight, they were grateful they were there. They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and began again. That is the gift America gives all “the tired and poor”. I did not like Ifemelu. She was hard, unforgiving, discontented and unrelenting in her complaining. She judged everyone around her, but was angry if you judged her. She complained about the morality and ethics in America but then went back to Nigeria, about which she complained as well, She broke all the rules she knew she should follow, especially the one about fidelity.
I think this book is considered great for several reasons: it is about race and people might be afraid to say how they truly feel since the term racism is loosely thrown about with abandon. No one wants to be unfairly branded racist because they express a contrary review of the book. It is common knowledge that the literary world is liberal; they follow the talking points of their leaders. I hope I don’t get hate mail for my honesty.
Regardless of my criticism about the content, I have to say it was written well and held my interest most of the time. It simply got tedious, redundant and sometimes frustrating to read about the same grievances over and over again, blaming others, always, never herself or her fellow immigrants for anything except for becoming Americanized. She even considered herself better than American blacks. She often condescended to whites and blacks alike, assuming an air of superiority. I hope the picture she painted about how immigrants feel in this country is wrong, for if it is, they truly don’t appreciate what this country has to offer immigrants from all nations, white and black, of all religions and of all ethnicities. As Ifemelu was defensive about her own country, I am equally defensive about mine, and I was offended by some of the narrative that seemed so anti-American and although rarely, there was a suggestion of anti-Semitism. To blithely dismiss centuries of Jewish suffering and slavery is disingenuous, especially, if the author is presenting a novel in which the main character is so sensitive to issues of race. By the end of the book, I expected the author to write, “it is all George Bush’s fault” or sarcastically, to “blame it on the bossanova”!
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LibraryThing member yooperprof
"Americanah" is an interesting and generally pleasing mix of the contemporary social novel and "chic lit." I was very interested to read about the lives of prosperous Nigerians, at times living expatriate lives in Britain and the United States, at times dealing with the contradictions and challenges of contemporary African society.

The Nigeria material and the "hair" material are both really excellent and exceptionally well delivered. However, I was frustrated at times that Adichie has presented her work in the format of a conventional "romance" novel. What I mean is this: Adichie has chosen as her protagonist an improbably attractive and intelligent woman, and for her plot Adichie follows her heroine through a series of idealized relationships with improbably attractive and intelligent men.
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LibraryThing member mirikayla
I'm going back and forth between 4 and 5 stars, I think because the ending didn't have as much of an impact as I was expecting. But then I remember how I basically devoured this book, loving every minute that I was reading, feeling completely absorbed and doing the whole thing from start to finish in about a day and a half. I can't wait to read her other books.… (more)
LibraryThing member readingwithtea
Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.

I nearly gave up on this one. I’m glad I had nothing else to read on the Tube one Monday, this fails the hundred page test but passes the two hundred page test with flying colours. So if you’re reading it and unconvinced, keep going (preferably on a train where you have no choice but to keep going), because you’ll get sucked in at some point and it’s completely worth the perseverance.

Starting in the now, then continually moving back, gives it the weak start. I wasn’t altogether happy with the ending either (though that’s thanks to my rather black and white moral compass), but that doesn’t detract from a well-plotted arching story.

The strength of this book is the huge themes. Race is an incredibly strong theme for the US setting, with Ifemelu running a race-related blog and being really very outspoken (although obviously well within her rights to be outspoken)! The portion set in the UK is much less about racism (a comment on UK attitudes compared to US?) and more about undocumented life, the constant threat of deportment, life as a shadow person. Very relevant right now given the anti-immigration platforms being traded on by the UK political parties.

The third huge theme is the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze – separated by fate and then Ifemelu’s self-perceived betrayal, her refusal to answer his letters and phone calls. When she finally does then come back from the US, there are yet more hurdles between them… but the teenage love story between them is really strong and credible while still being a “they were each other’s one in a million” type of thing.

Ifemelu is a really strong character, sort of everywoman, who doesn’t make odd or unpalatable choices (Obinze is harder to understand – quieter, and somehow the thoughts of his which are set on paper are less developed that Ifem’s?). We understand her ambition, her shame, her determination to put the world to rights. The secondary characters were much weaker in my eyes – Obinze’s wife, Ifem’s long-term boyfriends, both of their parents and uni friends all seemed more like caricatures. But this is worth reading just for Ifem and Obinze.

I don’t have the historical or cultural awareness to really get the Nigerian setting, but it’s written in an approachable style for a Western audience. Certainly the sections in the US and UK are well-researched and as a London resident I found the portion when Obinze was working as an illegal immigrant in London really interesting – it’s so totally different to my understanding of “documented” life in London.

All I can really say about this one is – read it, and get through the 100 pages. It’s worth it on the other side.
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LibraryThing member Christina_E_Mitchell
I had been putting of my review of this book for a couple of days. I honestly did not know how to approach the review without taking focus off the book's central point, which brings forward a discussion about race and what race means. I believe I can start this review with applause for a masterful work of fiction that effectively begins a deeper conversation about race not yet seen in American literature. Being Black is not a homogenous feature. Being African-American is different from being Nigerian. The centralizing argument presented by the protagonist, Ifem, is that she had never experienced race in Nigeria, that race is an American minefield wrought with subtleties difficult to understand. Ifem is positioned as the "Other" of the "Other" providing a depth of insight and a bringing forth of questions that Americans seem to refuse to discuss. Bravo!

Now, comes my difficulty with the book. I had extreme difficulty with the privileging of the male that is loudly whispered throughout the book. I think I need to explain my difficulty is shaped by an experience I had while reading Adichie's masterpiece on a flight.

I had started the book a few weeks back and chose to take the book with me on an overnight trip to Seattle to attend my Son-In-Law's Naval pinning ceremony announcing his arrival as Chief Petty Officer. It was a quick trip. I was leaving in the afternoon, staying the night, attending the ceremony the following morning, and flying home that same evening. When I boarded my departing Southwest flight, I was lucky enough to draw seating with the first boarding group and settled into my favored window seat with Adichie's book. At one point I looked up, saw the stream of passengers boarding, caught the eye of a male, I smiled, and he took that as an invitation to join me in my row. So far, so good. Problems began with the fact the male had been drinking (he smelled), continuing when he proceeded to pick up on me, repeatedly, persistently, and creepily. Throughout the flight I was extremely uncomfortable. I tried to be polite so as not to be disruptive but ignore him as much as possible concentrating on Adichie's book. I did not share my name with the male. I did share I was going to Seattle and why in preliminary chit-chat I soon regretted. This male was also heading to Seattle. When the plane landed after the first leg of the journey, I let him leave ahead of me hoping to create distance. I then proceeded to get near my next gate planning to grab an adult beverage while I waited for the next flight to board (I needed it). I saw the drunk male at the gate, thought, "Fuck!," and scurried into the nearest bar to stay far away from him. The drunk male spotted me and proceeded to come into the bar and sit next to me. Here, I share a synopsis I posted on Facebook:

Bartender: What can I get you two.
Creep: [Turns to me] I'd like to get this woman whatever she wants.
Me: No.
Creep: It's no problem. I'd like to buy you a drink.
Me: No. [In turn to Bartender and passing him my debit card] I'll take a marzdan.
[Creep orders what he wants. I go back to reading my book.]
Creep: [To Bartender] Is there a restroom around here?
Bartender: Just around the corner.
[Creep leaves, but leaves his bag like I will watch it.]
Bartender: [To me] Interesting guy. Are you two friends?
Me: No.
Bartender: Do you know him?
Me: No. He sat next to me on the plane, tried to pick me up, we are on the next flight together, and he followed me in here. I apologize, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to get quite rude in a moment.
Bartender: No problem.
[Creep returns]
Creep: I can't believe you are as old as you say you are. I'm only 36 and would love to ask you out.
Me: I am the age I said I am, and I perfer that you don't ask me out.

I down my beer and leave. Bartender tells me to have a good rest of the day. I go sit at the gate next to other people. I am in the first boarding group and plant myself at the front next to a lovely, wonderfully nice woman. She's from Seattle, is also a grandma, and we had a happy, comfortable, pleasant visit. I told her about the creep. She said just pretend I'm your girlfriend. It was a nice flight into Seattle then. However, when I get into my daughter's vehicle at the curbside loading zone outside Sea-Tac, I turned around and the creep was standing there. I told my daughter that's was the guy who was bothering me. She was shocked that he would be so close to me, even through the airport.

I have never been harassed like that on a flight or in an airport. My humor is gone. There won't be a next time. NO ONE, NO MALE, has an unmitigated right to a space, place, or person. EVER! I will simply have the passenger or myself reseated. I was too nice. Lesson learned.

Getting back to Americanah, there are extreme parallels between the drunk, creepy male and the males in Adichie's book. Everyone one of Adiche's male characters assumed their opinion was akin to God's (or was law); that they had an unquestioned, privileged right to possess space, place, and person. Neither Curt, nor Blaine, nor the apparent love of Ifem's life, Obinze, refrained from treating Ifem like a possession, like something they deserved (and acting like spoiled children when they didn't get their way). Reading the chapters, sitting next to the drunken creep on the plane, I wanted to pitch the book across the row planning on hitting the creep upside the head. Perhaps sexism was part of the questioning Adichie wanted to bring forward. It is so subtle in execution, I'm not certain she did. Yet, it wasn't subtle enough not to unsettle me and hate everything I read about every male in her book from my encounter with the creepy male forward.

After Ifem leaves America to return to live Nigeria, Obinze, so in love with Ifem, decides to leave his wife and we are not given any further detail. The end. I found myself feeling very sorry for the wife who was so easily obtained to dangle on Obinze's arm (he got what he bought and had buyer's remorse) and so easily discarded in a social-climbing society that would, more than likely, turn the ex-wife into a kept woman on precarious, unstable ground. Obinze retains possession of his wife's person because it is Obinze who can give the marriage up in freedom not afforded his wife though his wife will forever carry the mark. To me, this makes Ifem no better than the women she criticizes for being simplistic and naive in their sole focus on obtaining a marriage with a prominent Nigerian in an effort to obtain the myths of an assured place in society and a secure socio-economic status. That's harsh, but it is how I see the unfolding of the story. For me, being Americanah is epitomized in just this exchange. Ifem is not westernized enough to tell Obinze to go fuck himself and that she has, can, and will support herself and live outside the reality surrounding her. But rather, Ifem is, essentially, one of the Nigerian women she criticizes so liberally only having a little more financial, social, and cultural collateral to ensure she gets the man she wants. The relationship is still an exchange that privileges the male remaining unsteady and precarious. Ifem is straddling and negotiating two identities. I do not like the result.

I hope I stop being mad. I hope I can turn to the true genius of the conversation this book opens about race. I think it will take me some time. I hope Ms. Adichie can forgive me and understand I will eventually find my way to join her where I believe she wanted the book bring me. Until then, please save me a seat.
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LibraryThing member spacegirl3000
I liked Ifem the main character right until the last maybe 10 pages. What a disappointment she turned out to be. Esther was close but not on point. She doesn't revolt men or husbands, she's a man eater she chews them up and spits them out not even stopping for the love of her life.
I pity Obinze.
Overall an emotional book with lots of ups and downs and a disappointing ending.
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Pages

588

ISBN

0307455920 / 9780307455925

UPC

884975617704
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