Book Review: Americanah

Americanah Book Cover

Americanah is a moniker by Nigerians to refer to American immigrants like Ifemelu. Ifemelu is the main protagonist of the novel wih Obinze as supporting protagonist. This book was published in 2013 and was written by award winning Nigerian auhor, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is the second book that I’ve read from her and I had high expectations about this book because the reviews were overwhelming and it talks mainly about racism. Racism plays a big part throughout this novel when Ifemelu migrated to America and Obinze in London. It also tells about their love that was affected by challenges. Americanah is not only about Ifemelu and Obinze, it is also about the people around them – Aunty Uju, Dike, Ifem’s parents, Ifem’s lovers, Obinze’s mother, and their friends.

Adichie writes fluidly starting the story with Ifemelu’s desire to go back to Nigeria even though she is now an American citizen, living in America for more than a decade now. Then Adichie shifts Ifemelu’s thoughts to her past. Despite this time shift from present to past and vice versa. There are moments in the story that I got confused with the timeline but its only rare because Adichie managed to merge both the past and present stories seamlessly. Ifemelu is the headstrong girl and Obinze is the guy with high sense of morality. The political unrest in Africa prompted Ifemelu to migrate to America and stay with her Aunty Uju. It was a difficult decision for both lovebirds but they had plans for Obinze to follow her soon. The separation was difficult but they managed to survived the long distance with e-mails and phone calls. It was short lived however, Ifemelu stopped to reached out to Obinze when she was consumed by her depression.

There was no proper closure in Ifemelu and Obinze’s relationship but they ultimately moved on. Racism became a pressing topic later on in the story. Modern racism is now becoming a taboo with the terms black, nigger, negro, and other words referring to black skinned people are left to be unsaid and met with strong negation by Americans. This silence is met wih disdain by Ifemelu because racism still exists albeit discreetly. I enjoyed Ifemelu’s blog and her experiences in America as a black skinned woman.

“Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have that choice.”

 I can only imagine how difficult it is for black skinned people to be equals with the fair skinned people because equality can never exist. It feels like a dream that will take a lifetime to achieve. America, the land of milk and honey, is a melting pot of races and every race are being tagged according to their race and skin color – Asians, Hispanics, and the Blacks. Adichie it seems wrote the story from her experience or probably from other people’s experience. I cannot imagine the difficulty of being an immigrant in America as a black person. It opened my mind to the reality that Ifemelu’s experience can also happen to other immigrants.

The novel was good for me. I had my share of excitement, laughter, and pain for Ifemelu. I was rooting for her not to return to Lagos, to continue her blog, and to live independently. I did not want her to rekindle her love with Obinze because he was already married and has a daughter. For me, it’s not morally correct to engage a relationship with him in his current situation. But Adichie’s plans override my thoughts and I am left disappointed with the ending. I don’t know what will happen after Ifemelu let him inside her apartment becase that’s the end of it. I know it’s not a perfect novel but I had high hopes that the ending will put a definite closure. It did but I found it vague. Damn.

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