Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: 5/14/2013
Pages: 477
How I Found It: It's been critically acclaimed since its release, but I finally picked it up because the Pantsuit Politics book club read it in December.
Date Completed: 12/24/17

Summary: Ifemelu and Obinze are high-school sweethearts at their school in Lagos, Nigeria. They intend to spend their lives together, as all high-school sweethearts do. Life, however, distributes them to opposite sides of the planet and they both must learn what it means to be an immigrant and a Nigerian. 

What I Thought: Much as I felt after reading The Book of Unknown Americans, Americanah gave me a fresh perspective on what it is like to be an immigrant. Adichie lays the practicalities and emotions of the experience bare. She does not glamorize, but rather takes a magnifying glass to the ups and downs of life in a new country. 

Much more of the plot of the book transpires outside of the United States than I expected. In retrospect, however, I see the value of that. Adichie is contrasting the American experience with life lived in other places. It helps readers to better see exactly why the emotions Ifemelu and others feel exist. It also helps to identify which issues are American-specific and which are more character-driven. For instance, Ifemelu's continued failure in relationships has little to do with her location, but her struggles with race and racial identity are much more transparent in her days in America.

I especially liked that Adichie made Ifemelu a blogger about race in America and included many of her "posts" throughout the book. Those definitely felt like things Adichie herself has observed and wanted to rant about but felt the need to filter through a caustic character like Ifemelu. Those posts alone helped me see different perspectives about race in America. 

I hoped I would like this book, but it exceeded my expectations. The longer I think about it now, the more it grows on me, too. There is depth of both plot and character development and it's all framed against a backdrop of global and national political issues. Adichie is a deep-thinker and it's evident in so many ways here. 

Quotes I Loved:

  • "It puzzled him that she did not mourn all the things she could have been. Was it a quality inherent in women, or did they just learn to shield their personal regrets, to suspend their lives, subsume themselves in child care?"
  • "She gloried in the offbeat dryness of Michelle Obama's humor, the confidence in her long-limbed carriage, and then she mourned when Michelle Obama was clamped, flattened, made to sound tepidly wholesome in interviews. Still, there was, in Michelle Obama's overly arched eyebrows and in her belt worn higher on her waist than tradition would care for, a glint of her old self. It was this that drew Ifemelu, the absence of apology, the promise of honesty."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe
Other Books By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We Should All Be Feminists

A Reduced Review: A well-crafted and thought-provoking novel about what it means to belong somewhere.

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