“She had always liked this image of herself as too much trouble, as different, and she sometimes thought of it as a carapace that kept her safe.”–Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
- Here’s what happens:
- Here we have the story of a bold, strong, and caring heroine, Ifemulu, transposed over the story of immigrating from Nigeria to the United States, as well as the story of homecoming when she returns to Nigeria. And if you’re thinking, so this is a story of an African woman moving to the United States to either escape some horrible circumstances or explore life-changing opportunities, the answer is NO. First and foremost, this is the story of a young woman, her experiences with her family, education, love, racism, employment, and sense of place. These experiences are communicated through the arc of her journey from and to Nigeria, but as she so thoughtfully points out in this novel, books don’t have to be just about one thing; so it is all of these wonderfully complex things, all at once. And it’s amazing.
- It’s good because:
- Even though it’s about all of these simultaneous topics, it is not an overwhelming or belaboured read. Adichie paints a truly spell-binding story, and my boyfriend can attest to the fact that I could hardly put down the 580-page volume. Even though I myself am not a Nigerian immigrant who has experienced half of what Ifemulu experiences by way of culture or racism, her relentless search of self and belonging is illuminating. Additionally (and this part of my raving comes from a deep personal admiration for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), this is a multidimensional piece of African literature, and I really hold Adichie in high esteem for her work in advocating for and shedding light on African writers. So much of popular African writing in the west is about child soldiers and genocide and war, and while these are important narratives and aspects of African history (and should by no means be discounted!), they are certainly not the ONLY things happening on that side of the world, and Americanah is a stunning reminder of this. This book adds diversity and complexity to the western perception of African literature in a very genuine and resounding way. I really can’t praise this book enough.
- Read if:
- You’re human. This post has been more verbose than my past ones (I’m like a babbling thirteen-year-old with a crush when it comes to talking about this book) but I can’t express enough what an amazing human story it is.
Up next: Nepal with Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.