Monday, May 02, 2016

Book Review: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


This is the story of  Ifemelu and Obinze, two Nigerians who emigrate from Nigeria to two different countries and then come home again. I'm not sure how this book came to me, but I sure didn't want to let it go back to the library. I am quite certain, however, that I decided to read this book solely based on my experience another Adichie book, "Purple Hibiscus." Her absorbing storytelling, done with some of the best prose I can remember ever reading, is both entertaining and educational. 

Adichie's observations about human behavior touch home. As you read her books, you often find yourself realizing, "Of course! I've seen people do and say those things and now I get a glimpse of understanding the thought process behind it!" 

Ifemelu came to the U.S. as a student on an education visa. Her education in Nigeria was frustrating as she tried to find continuity in a time of turmoil that caused work stoppages, power outages, and government upheaval. In the U.S, she moved in with her aunt who had emigrated here with her young son. Ifemelu's struggles to find work and become self-sufficient were tough, but she survived the hardship to become a blogger and speaker with a focus on race issues. Her assessment of racism in America, and her observations of the heirarchy of non-white people is compelling and familiar. 

Ifemelu's childhood friend and teenage lover, Obinze, emigrated illegally to the U.K. His plan was also to pursue education, but he did not have the benefit of family or government assistance. His part of the story is short but sometimes brutal, as he tried to work under a borrowed National Health card.

Both Ifemelu and Obinze end up back in Nigeria. I won't tell you how that happened for each of them, so as to not spoil the story.  They find their way to each back in Nigeria, which is the third component to the story. 

One of the most compelling passages of the book, to me, is when Adichie has a character that contrast racial attitudes in the U.S. with those in the U.K. 

There are time, particularly when Adichie inserts some of Ifemelu's blog entries, where the book drags for a few pages. But there are reasons for those entries, and they don't detract from the story.

Get this book. Then read "Purple Hibiscus" too.

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