Thursday, June 11, 2015

She's gone, she's learned, and she's conquered

Twice I've gone to start this review and twice I've stopped because I feel like there is so much to say about this book and I know I'm not going to do it justice. While I won't say third time's the charm (because that would assume what I'm about to write is going to be good) I will say third time is the time I finally suck it up and just write this thing.

I finally, finally, FINALLY read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.* I don't know why I was so worried. Well, no, I mean I do know why because this is an excellent book and it deserves the praise it got. It's also very accessible and I never felt like I was not smart enough to get this (though I'm sure I missed plenty). Odds are you've already read this, cos I feel like most people have, but I am always late to the game, but here goes my review anyway!

The story centers on Ifemelu (if someone would like to make a video teaching me how to correctly pronounce her name, that would be neat), a woman who has been living in the States for a while now but is planning to move back to Nigeria. She's at one point described as "a fine babe but she is too much trouble. She can argue. She can talk. She never agrees." Not an inaccurate description. Later in the book when she's talking about how graduate students speak just in academia and she's afraid they don't know what's happening in the real world she's told "That's a pretty strong opinion" and quickly responds with "I don't know how to have any other kind." She's pretty great.

At the beginning of the book Ifemelu travels from Princeton into Trenton to find a place to get her hair done and as she sits in the chair for 8 hours, she reminisces about her life before she came to America and all of the events that brought her to where she is now.

Part of her flashbacks include her first love, Obinze. They met as teenagers and it was assumed by everyone, including each other, that they would end up married. But life rarely goes as planned as Ifemelu goes to America while Obinze later makes his way to England. A number of chapters are from Obinze's point of view and his experience as an undocumented worker abroad, before getting deported and eventually becoming a wealthy property developer back home.

But the story is Ifemelu's and Adichie does a beautiful job depicting race and racism in the US, England, and Nigeria; how the experiences of African-Americans and those of American-Africans are very different; how she and Obinze weren't black until they left Nigeria. Ifemelu writes a successful blog "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-­American Black" that I wish was real cos I would follow. That's not all Adichie covers. There's much about leaving and returning home. There is an emphasis on education but also a criticism of the world of academia. There are experiences of the very poor and the very wealthy.

You should read this. It's an excellent book. Besides, your reading is probably too white (it can't be just me) so broaden those horizons.

Gif rating:

*Wanna know how to pronounce her name? You should check out Amanda's video of commonly mispronounced author's names.

Title quote from page 534

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Americanah. Anchor Books, 2013.