On Americanah

unnamedWe were at Breukelen Coffee House today and while he studied, I finally finished Americanah. I enjoyed this book mainly because Adichie was given the liberty to fully and thoughtfully frame the lives of her characters and nailed each one. I haven’t read a book this length and scope by a young African writer. It was not the common African assimilation story (young African escapes ______<–(insert political or ethnic conflict), moves to America and has a hard time finding his/her way and his/her voice as a black immigrant, despite this he/she excels in America, returns home). There were layers that I was surprised Adichie was able to, as gracefully as she did, unveil, since from what I have read she did not spend her developmental years in America. It was an incredible read. Just a few thoughts:

–After undergrad while I worked as a temp in Bethesda, I started a blog that discussed the assimilation of African blacks into American culture. Though the content differs, Ifemelu’s blog reminded me of this. As I read the book, I wondered why I deleted it after only one month when it had been doing so well.

–I was at the park the other day and a woman saw me reading this book and said she enjoyed it. “It was heartbreaking,” she said. “It reminded me of her last one–the one that is being made into a film–Half of a Yellow Sun.” She lied. That it did not.

–I could relate to Ifemelu’s relationship with Blaine, who, though black like her, distrusted her interest in American racial politics. I would have been interested to read a storyline with Ifemelu dating a Nigerian with the same psychology as Dike–one born in America of Nigerian parents with no immediate emotional connection to Nigeria. I expect that a relationship like that would have ruined her personal development and may have even been emotionally abusive. While she may have felt safe with someone she considered her own, it would have been difficult for a character like Dike to love her, because she in essence, would remind him of everything he hated about himself. I have heard (and experienced) similar situations and would have been interested to read Adichie’s exploration of that in this book.

–There is a section where she acknowledges a crush on a boy in class, Abe. She admits that Abe may believe she is beautiful, but he would never act on it because he does not consider her female. She compares men in Europe who only care to have a “hot woman,” to men in America, who though also only want a “hot woman,” tend to totally leave black women out of that equation. It made me consider the awkward friendships with white men in my past and wonder if the primary reason for some of the awkward exchanges was because they, like the main character’s friend, also found me beautiful, but in a way that triply surprised, confused and disgusted them.

–I think the only thing that struck me as unbelievable was how quickly she lost her Nigerian accent. She was in America for 3 or 4 years the first time someone mentioned to her that she did not have an accent. I have extended members who have lived in America for much longer, particularly those like Ifemelu (the main character), who immigrated in their early twenties, and still have not completely lost their accents.

–I wish they would not have ended up together. In real life, they would not have ended up together. Obinze would have remained married, while possibly still seeing her, and she would have gone about her life until Nigeria lost its intrigue and she found herself in another country (likely America). Men like Obinze, who have stumbled upon lives of neat packages (an unbelievable job, an extraordinarily beautiful wife, a mammoth bank account), do not so easily leave. He loved her, yes, but I did not believe a man of his position would have so easily gotten over how she completely cut him out of his life after moving to America. While walking Jude later, I couldn’t help but shake my head at how much my opinions and expectations of love stories have changed. Not so long ago it would have made me happy that the book ended the way it did. It would have made sense to me that a story like that would end happily. But now I want my love stories to be true.

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