Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Everyone Should Read This Book

18209268Published: May 14th, 2013

by: Knopf

Genres: Adult-Fiction, Contemporary, Literary, Politics, Cultural, Mental Health, Coming-of-Age, Romance

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchased

My Rating: 5 Stars 

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A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

One of The New York Times‘s Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

An NPR “Great Reads” Book, a Chicago Tribune Best Book, aWashington Post Notable Book, a Seattle Times Best Book, anEntertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, a Newsday Top 10 Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick.

 

My Thoughts

5-stars

Americanah is one of the best books I’ve read this year, that I’ve really connected with. This book is not just about race and identity, it’s a love story and it’s about hair (which is where the identity comes in). I can’t explain what reading this book did to me. It only took hours for me to devour it, and I immediately wanted to read it again afterwards. Which is unheard of for me whenever a book is almost 600 pages. I have reread it, just so you know. The problem I have with this is the ending. It’s not terrible, but I would have liked it to end on another note. Still, that little hiccup didn’t stop me from loving the hell out of this book. I’m still trying to give it more than five stars. It deserves 1000, but… oh, well. This book covers a lot of topics that come up in headlines today, but it also deals with depression and attempted suicide, among other things. This may the the longest review that I’ve ever written; simply because I can’t stress enough how epic this story is. I’ll try not to spoil anything important!!

If you’ve ever debated about race, religion, and politics in America; it’s no different in other countries. I understand that about the world, even when someone tries to tell me otherwise. I’m still tripping on this whole presidential campaign that’s going on right now. I hate turning on the television, or opening my laptop, to all the BS. This book was a great distraction, as the characters make observations about what it means to be a Black-American, Non-American Black, and the dirty history behind it all. It’s also about love, acceptance, and all that other good stuff that a lot of non-black people don’t see. This book has made at least 5 out of every 10 non-blacks see how much they claim not to be a racist, when they are in fact a racist. It’s all about your views of the world. How you treat people. How – if you are a non-black, having a “black friend”, shouldn’t make you feel ashamed to have them around your family and friends. You can’t say that you have “black friends”, but then turn around and say that you won’t allow your child to marry one and make little brown babies. You keep your black acquaintances separated from your non-black friends, until someone calls you that “R” word. Then you bring them out and say “see, I have black friends”. It so doesn’t work this way, and a lot of readers took something from this book. I know I did.

 I love the culture in this book. Chimamanda tells this story so well with the past and present flowing seamlessly into each other. I was never lost with where or when the story was taking place. Whether it was past Nigeria, present Princeton, past London, or past Baltimore – I always knew who was narrating this tale. Ifemulu and Obinze narrate their history, both together and apart. Being in America and England, as opposed to Lagos Nigeria, where they both grew up. How the color of your skin plays a part in navigating foreign countries. Unless you have money, of course. And sometimes, that isn’t enough Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiefor upper class non-blacks to see you differently. To them, you should be beneath them in everything. To be intelligent and black in America means nothing. You have to fight for success here, whereas others have it easy. Ifemulu’s story was more interesting than Obinze’s, simply because she had more to say. I love her observations of America on her blog, and she grew so much as a character throughout, but she still didn’t loose sight of herself even when she was reinventing herself. I know, that totally doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I can’t explain it any other way. Ifemulu’s relationships with Obinze (Nigerian), Curt (Caucasian), and Blaine (African-American) were very interesting. Her friendship with Kim, her white boss, was very much interesting as well. You never know when someone needs a friend, and I think that job came at a great time for Ifemulu. I really despise the way Kim’s friend, Laura, treated Ifemulu. As if she was some dumb servant girl, and she was beneath her. Ifemulu handled her well, and always spoke her mind. Ifemulu’s observations came from within, as well as her surroundings. Her intelligence shined brightly, and I couldn’t have asked for better exchanges between these characters.

As an American Black, I’ve not really experimented with hairstyles. I have cut my hair (only the top), and I’ve colored and permed it. I’ve had braids, but my scalp doesn’t like the tightness. Nothing beats the feel of my natural curly hair, but I do have to flat iron it occasionally just to keep my ends clipped. Chimamanda touches that subject of “permed hair versus natural”. If my hair is not in a ponytail, it’s flat ironed straight. That creamy crack is not for everyone. I do think that not everyone can rock a natural hairstyle either, so I’m gonna have to agree to disagree on this subject that Chimamanda expresses so deeply about in this book. Ifemulu had a bad experience with a perm, so she started rocking her natural hair. I actually think Curt preferred her braids over her other styles. I also like how that relationship was viewed. Curt tended to brush aside Ifemulu’s feelings sometimes, and it was hard to like him, even though he was a nice enough guy. The way that it ended was just the way I saw it. Men, no matter the color, will always want to end things when there is an infidelity on the woman’s part. But when they do it, it’s all good.

And to all of you individuals claiming that 5, 10, 30 % of another race, even though the African part is higher, YOU ARE BLACK. You don’t see me saying that I’m Native American because of that 6.25 DNA, do you? Stop being ashamed of your black ancestry; it’s truly disgusting.  I love the identity topics in this book. Thought provoking, and very well written. This book is everything. 

Ifemulu’s relationships with her parents, friends, Aunt Uju and little cousin Dike were very warm, and often times funny. Again, the Nigerian culture is really well expressed from beginning to end. The food, fashion, religion, politics, and education was front and center. There’s no sugarcoating anything, and I think this makes it more real. I’m wondering if Obinze and Ifemulu are inspired by the author herself and a past love (or present)? I mean, it’s so real and raw. I love everything about their beginning, middle, and end. They were apart for almost a decade, and they still had so much to learn about life. Obinze’s time in London, almost marrying for papers. It’s not like Chimamanda exposed some big secret thing. I loved that she touched this subject so unashamedly. How he became a success after that awful time in his life is inspiring. His views on marriage to Kosi, and the birth of his daughter Buchi lets you really see how his thoughts never left Ifemulu. How Ifemulu, even being in America, never forgot Obinze. The way that they lost contact with each other made me cry. Not the how, but the why she did it. Her depression was so real and thick that you could feel it through the pages. How she felt after what happened with the tennis coach, I felt it as well. Seriously, I felt the shame of it all, and I see why she felt she couldn’t (didn’t deserve) face Obinze. This story is like nothing I’ve ever read. I always find great books that leave an impression, but this one left the biggest impact of them all. It’s like the holy grail of Literature, Romance, and Politics all rolled into one perfect book. I can’t sing it’s praises enough. And I shall leave you with one of my many favorite quotes from Americanah: (sarcasm intended).

In America, racism exists but racists are all gone. Racists belong to the past. Racists are the thin-lipped mean white people in the movies about the civil rights era. Here’s the thing: the manifestation of racism has changed but the language has not. So if you haven’t lynched somebody then you can’t be called a racist. Somebody has to be able to say that racists are not monsters. They are people with loving families, regular folk who pay taxes. Somebody needs to get the job of deciding who is racist and who isn’t. Or maybe it’s time to just scrap the word “racist”. Find something new. Like Racial Disorder Syndrome. And we could have different categories for sufferers of this syndrome: mild, medium, and acute. – Job Vacancy in America-National Arbiter in Chief of “Who Is Racist” Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black

Stacey Dash, have you read this book? If not, you should. You are a disgrace to American Blacks and Non-American Blacks, alike. Why should Black History Month be Eliminated? Hell, it needs a whole year if you ask me.

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26 thoughts on “Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Everyone Should Read This Book

  1. Yes, Yes Yes!!!!! This is a favorite for all the reasons you listed above. As a Ghanaian-American woman myself, this book resonated with me and truly painted an honest & accurate picture. I love how she utilized the hair complex to tell a rich and deep tale of our history. I added this to my boss books post for all the reasons above.

    Great review, doll!! 🙂

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  2. wow, i saw this review over the weekend but marked it to be read today because I was on the move. I was curious about your views of the book.Glad that you enjoyed Americanah and it had such a strong impact on you.

    I love Chimamanda’s work and loved this and her other books, Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. I could relate to her views on hair though. I had to cut my dreadlocks last year because my employer thought they looked unprofessional(they were neat by the way). I have natural hair right now and I still get funny looks like its unkempt, unprofessional just because its natural/un-permed. Funny thing, I am in Africa, Kenya but people still have that mentality about black hair and skin too. It is the same with skin color, many people are now bleaching and shunning darker skin. Its a sad situation. The racism in these parts is different in that we have been taught that everything African is lesser and unfortunately, it has negatively impacted on our generations.

    Back to the book though, Americanah is definitely a powerful book. Her other books are really good though so if you ever get a chance, check them out. Half of Yellow Sun is also already a film.sorry for the long comment. Great,thought-provoking review.

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  3. Oh wow, this is certainly a long and in depth review. I have heard a lot of good things about this book and it is on my TBR, but it IS also massive which is quite scary and intimidating to me. But it sounds like one for me. It deals with pressing issues that do relate to today with the elections going on and well, some of the stuff I am hearing about is driving me crazy >.> But this one doesn’t only go for that. It mentions history, politics, emotions feeling and everything that encompasses a person. All I know is that I need to read it.

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  4. This sounds incredible and I’m so glad you liked it — nothing better than finding that book that you just feel! Definitely want to read this

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  5. Lekeisha your review is beautiful, and from the rich setting to the characters you have me curious. When a reader devours a book and wants more..it is always a good sign. I am intrigued by the ending.

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  6. I see I picked the wrong book to help me understand non-black American culture. I tried a different author, but I got squicked out b/c the Nigerian girl was too young to be with the guy so I couldn’t get far.
    But this one… I love when a story expands my horizons and makes me think even while it’s about the relationships I crave when I pick up a book.
    I was very lucky to grow up in a neighborhood rich in diversity and I didn’t know until I went away to college that people were supposed to ‘stick with your own kind’, think ‘different is bad’, and not try to see that there are similarities, too. It was a sad eye opener and proves that racism is learned.
    But that also means it can be unlearned if a person wants to. I’m glad to see books like this that help.

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  7. Wow, this book really touched you. I own this book and have been wanting to read it forever, but other books keep getting in the way. Your review is really pushing me to read it. Once I read The Raven King, I will be moving onto Americanah. 🙂

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  8. LOVE this book. I think it might be my favorite book. Period. Which is something I have never said in all of my book loving life. I related to Ifemelu so much and the character as well as best-friend-in-my-head Chimamanda are daily inspirations to me as a Black female writer! I never miss an opportunity to gush over this book!

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  9. I love when a book can capture you in that way and that no matter how long it it, you don’t care, you have to re-read it. Wonderful review, I can really see your love for this shine through!

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  10. I definitely need to read this book, Lekeisha! I think books that are well written is the best way for me to get insight into how life is for people that are somewhat ‘different’ from me. Yes, I put that in quotes, because I really do believe that even if we are all different in many ways, there are even more ways we are the same – because we are human. We have feelings. We can be scared. We can be friendly or unfriendly. Openminded or not. And if you think this is a good way for non-black people to get a better understanding of what it is like to be black in a society that is still trying to put people down and keep them at arms length due to race, then I trust you fully.
    Thanks for the great review.

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