Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
With highly-acclaimed and award-winning books behind her, including Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, one could undeniably argue that expectations are high for Adichie’s latest book. Yet I would say without a shadow of a doubt that she has exceeded these high expectations with Americanah.
Partially set in the African country of Nigeria, and combining the immensely engaging subjects of love, culture, race and identity, Adichie presents a beautifully-written tale of a charming teenage romance between two inseparable individuals: Ifemelu and Obinze. Solely through her engaging and talented writing skills, Adichie creates the convincing relationship between these two childhood sweethearts that blossom before the eyes of each and every one of her readers. From the beginning of the book, one becomes quick to realise that Obinze has another passionate love in his life other than Ifemelu: a love of all things American; whether that be American literature or American film, Obinze is unashamedly besotted. Interestingly, however, it is Ifemelu who finds herself in Philadelphia, America when she is granted an opportunity to continue her postgraduate studies. Once there, glaring cultural differences come into play for Ifemelu between her home country of Nigeria and America; (which simultaneously influences Ifemelu to examine the race-relations in Westernised countries that leads her to write a blog based on the subject of race). Not only does this presents a challenge for Ifemelu, but since setting foot in America, she finds its an exhausting struggle to find herself a part-time job; as she finds herself being rejected from various job avenues including waitressing, cleaning and even bar tendering.
Dealing with the two hardships, she soon finds herself locked in the downward spiral of depression creating the ever-increasing emotional (alongside an already-present geographical) distance between herself and Obinze. With this, she begins to gradually ignore her boyfriend’s calls and emails sent from Nigeria. To her, he eventually becomes a distant memory…a memory that finds itself lost alongside her Nigerian identity as she tries to become more ‘westernised’ through adopting an American accent.
Meanwhile, Obinze finds himself in England (and not in his pictured dream-land of America as due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America, he is not granted permission to enter the country). Consequently, he finds himself being an illegal immigrant in London. Yet, years later, when he decides to return to Nigeria, he finds himself a economically rich man.
Admittedly, I have not yet read this entire book but so far it is proving to be one of the best books I have ever read as it has cleverly combined and interconnected such raw and distinctive subjects of love and identity whilst simultaneously challenging our ideas about race and its creation. I would highly recommend it.
Words by: Natasha Ayres