Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Pages: 588
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Anchor Books (Random House)
Pub. Date: May 14, 2013 (hardcover); March 4, 2014 (paperback);

I am having a serious book hangover after reading this. I'm writing this review a couple days after finishing the book, and I have had serious issues with trying to start another book because this has been in my head. I mean, it's not that this was my favorite read ever, because it wasn't, but it was very good and really threw a lot out there. I have not read a book as direct and straightforward, especially related to the topic of race and belonging, as Americanah.

I'm taking the synopsis from for this one: Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

So, really, this book was not about their relationship as the synopsis makes it out to be. That's sort of the backdrop to everything, but the real story is about life in America, London, and Nigeria for Ifemelu (mostly) and Obinze. It's about life as an American Black (AB) and a a Non-American Black (NAB) and how their experiences are different, how non blacks respond to them in general and to them as different groups, the ways in which they (ABs and NABs) relate and in which they can't. It's about the dynamics of Nigerians in Nigeria and how they are changed after moving abroad.

There is really a LOT about race and belonging throughout the book - so much insight and so direct. I laughed because at one point I started to feel like everything was so in-your-face (just totally straightforward) and shortly after that the characters in the book are at a dinner party talking about publishing books and how readers want things to be subtle because they're uncomfortable with reading about this topic unless it's barely there, only understandable by reading in between the lines. Oops!

Americanah is such a social commentary on our society. Through Ifemelu's journey from Nigeria to America and back we learn from her experiences and from her blog posts about race. But even though that is the focus, there is also a story, and I miss reading about Ifemelu and her friends and family! I would recommend this to anyone who loves literary fiction. And I've said this before about other books, but it's one of those that I feel would be a huge benefit to people learning about or who are interested in sociology.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I have heard she is an AMAZING writer. I've seen her speak (not in person but on a Youtube video) and she is captivating. Such a presence. I need to read her someday. It's one of those things that I think would make me feel smart :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I really want to read this. I actually got it already from the library but couldn't get to it before I had to take it back! sigh. Will request it again soon!

Ti said...

I read Half of a Yellow Sun and felt the same way. She is a great writer but I don't always like the characters or topic all that much. Her books are good for book clubs to discuss because they are meaty and there's plenty to talk about.

Jenny said...

LOL I hate when that happens!

nomadreader said...

I have been meaning to read this one since before it came out. I must make time for it soon!

Aarti said...

I loved this book! I particularly appreciated how she gave us her thoughts on how people treat race on three different continents.

Booksnyc said...

I just downloaded this in audio and cannot wait to get to it!

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