Book Review: Americanah-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Needless to say, this book has gotten quite the buzz since it came out. I was very excited to finally read this book as I have heard nothing but praise. I am sure many of you have already either read this novel or perhaps read a review of this novel. With this being said, I will keep my review brief, but honest.

The story is essentially about a strong-minded women named Ifemulu who ventures from Nigeria to America, back to Nigeria. The story also follows her high-school sweetheart Obinze and the journey he befalls in the midst of pursuing his ideal “American Dream.”  However Americanah is about so much more than two people who are in love. Americanah looks through the scope of being African and being black in America and London. The novel hits at racism, colorism, economic infrastructure,  complacency, and even the struggles of wearing “natural” hair.

You’re always battling to make your hair do what it wasn’t meant to do. If you go natural and take good care of of your hair, it won’t fall off like it’s doing now.

The author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, makes the reader look at race through the lens of a Nigerian woman and man, but also through the lens of black people in general. She discusses race intellectually and honestly. I found myself several times nodding a self-contained “Yes!” Adichie writes about how Africans are viewed by Americans and Europeans. She also comments how Nigerians who are “Americanized” are viewed by other Nigerians. Her writing is gripping and self reflective, and deliberately throws punches in the gut.

The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not…But it’s a lie….When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside race matters.

The novel is raw, yet remains to be a cerebral and a clean written look at race and the differentiations  of being black and being African.

Even though the novel is a bit lengthy and perhaps drawn out (588 pages!), I found myself really enjoying the novel. This is my first novel by Adichie and I would definitely read her other works. I highlighted several passages in the novel, and find this work a great book to discuss. Unfortunately I didn’t feel any connection towards the protagonist, and was actually more interested in Obinze’s back story. Even though the characters’ lives are interesting and well developed, they are written at a slight distance, especially Ifemelu. I’m not sure if this was the author’s intent, especially since the novel is moderately academic. Certain parts of the novel I thought were a bit boring, but the overall the experience of reading Americanah is a positive one. The writing is guttural, honest, and professional, containing some amazing prose. Reading this novel should be required of anyone who wants a deeper look at race. A classic in the making, Americanah is a worthy read.

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