Do you remember when I raved about Purple Hibiscus? Or Half of a Yellow Sun? Child’s play. Both novels totally pale in comparison to the incredible scope and complexity that make up Americanah. I actually am seriously considering changing up my fall class reading list so that I can include Americanah. And Adichie is definitely one of my favorite contemporary authors.
The novel focuses on two Nigerian teenagers, Ifemelu and Obinze, who fall in love and want a life that will bring them beyond the strikes and strife that make up Nigeria. Ifemelu receives a chance to the United States and begins a new life, while Obinze’s status as a young “foreign” male in a post-9/11 global landscape bars his entrance into the States. And so the novel hinges on the couple’s estrangement and connection throughout the years. Embedded in the novel is a frank examination of race and ethnicity as perceived by a non-American Black (as Ifemelu designates herself). It’s incisive and breathtaking all at once, and the story twists many times over as the characters reflect backward in time and project their anxieties, fears, and dreams into the present moment.
I love the way Adichie writes character. She makes individuals vivid without being too descriptive and pedantic. Yet she shows enough information so that you feel like you get to know each person and can still envision certain nuances for yourself. I also found myself nodding or cringing at certain points–while Adichie does not get political per se, her examination of racism and sexism in the States is all-too-familiar. I felt like I glimpsed into my world from another’s eyes, and I am better for this reading experience.