Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Book Review

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Synopsis

Genre: Afrolit, Literary Fiction, Feminism, Cultural, Contemporary

Blurb

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. 

It’s just been a few hours since I marked this book as reading on Goodreads and I am currently staring at the blank white background of my laptop asking myself

“How do I compose this review? How do I try to articulate my thoughts…? How!?

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This book had me reading passages out loud to my close friends, snapping my fingers at the poignancy of Adichie tackling heavy-handed issues with such elegance. I skipped lunch and avoided all possible communication with my co-workers so I can just have a glimpse of the story. I seriously had to hide in the bathroom to avoid any sort of distraction Not my best moment but it was worth it The overall plot of the book feels like a love story but it was so much more so don’t read too much into it because at a certain level I  didn’t care much for the romance between the two main characters but I was drawn to both of them individually and their journey throughout the book.

“Why did people ask “What is it about?” as if a novel had to be about only one thing.” 

This book has garnered praise from every mainstream outlet and I can definitely understand the hype surrounding It… It exhumes confidence and packs a punch in such a subtle way that everyone will leave the book feeling a tad smarter. I for one saw multiple reviews but never from a fellow Kenyan, my assumption was that it didn’t resonate well back home because it was filled with tonnes of clichés, similar to a Nollywood film (not that there is anything wrong with them) Going in with low expectations  actually boosted my overall enjoyment of the book. Adichie’s atmosphere felt so fresh, honest and authentic, I could feel the passion resonate from the themes she tackles and manages to capture the true African spirit through such wide canvas.

“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”

“Is the grass greener on the other side?” was what drove me to flip through the pages, I have always been fascinated by the culture shock, the feeling of trying to fit into a place that seems so alien to one and she explores this element through Ifemelu (The US) (struggle to come to terms with the new environment as she juggles her relationships, education and culture shock)  & Obinze (The UK) (being separated from the love of his life and being an illegal immigrant) From Race, Identity, Gender, Class, Education…

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“Alexa and the other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for for choice and certainty.” 

Immigration (Such a touchy issue) discussed in detail that I can’t even begin to articulate here. The process of looking for the “American dream” and discovering that as stated earlier the grass ain’t always greener on the other side. In that realization, the immigrant starts to lose a part of themselves trying to keep up with this “fast” world country. Through small parts such as sudden change of the accent, sense of understanding, the perception of their world view etc… And Adichie’s interpretation of this topic was amazing because as a Kenyan I could relate on some of these issues… I have known some of my close relatives and friends who are abroad, struggling just to acquire that so called “dream” and on returning a sense of detachment engulfs them. A majority of the book takes place in the era of no internet so it was hard to accustom once self with the events of the world just by a click on their devices and I am glad she choose that background, it was gritty and unapologetic.

“How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives we imagined.” 

And with every encounter, she addresses the issue head on with such delicacy and confidence… I found some areas very humorous,felt like she took some scenes from my past. From the discussion of hair (Growing up my mom and sisters used to braid each other’s hair and always discuss different styles and products and she portrays that salon conversation so accurately) to my Christian heavy family values which come with overexaggerated prayers and blaming everything on evil spirits.

“Relaxing your hair is like being in prison. You’re caged in. Your hair rules you. You didn’t go running with Curt today because you don’t want to sweat out this straightness. You’re always battling to make your hair do what it wasn’t meant to do.” 

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At the end it made me yearn for a better Africa by portraying such a rich exotic continent and also the slow self-destruction caused by corruption & power struggle. I am so glad it made its mark on the mainstream because it mirrors a current decaying continent with the possibility of a brighter future.

Exuberant, Humorous, Thought provoking this is one of those reads that will remain relevant for centuries. Have you read it? I would really love to know how you found it, especially from my fellow African reader… Did you feel she managed to authenticate the true African Spirit?

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        So until next time stay Bookish 😉

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22 thoughts on “Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Book Review

  1. I feel like this is one of the best reviews of Americanah,yet by a fellow Kenyan/ African. Having read the book, most reviewers focus on the romantic bit of it and make the book seem like just one of the other Romantic books one would pick up and I totally understand but just don’t agree.I mean this book is more than that.What got to me is how she addressed the whole moving to the states and settling down for both Ife and Obinze-seeing their lives through this other frosted lens, the side that most of our people never tell us,you know and even in this age, I still feel like not much has changed for immigrants.I do agree that it is thought-provoking,so many questions, so many thoughts.I almost bookmarked my whole book as I kept nodding absent-mindedly and pausing to let the words seep in and just everything.Chimamanda’s relaxed prose is what kept me going, grasping the quaint things, the ones that won’t pass any African really.I could write and write but all in all, a book review or discussion can’t quite capture the whole essence of this book,not even a movie,one has got to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WOW!!!! Joy this comment should be a review on its own… You literally took the words out of my mouth. No review no matter how detailed can match the experience of Adichie’s voice and aura. It shouldn’t be pitched as a Romance Novel that kinda devalues the quality of the book. I honestly can’t wait to experience her other books and keep shoving this one in everyone’s hand. Thank you for the well thought out comment glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved Americanah, and I see you did too! The book surely packs a punch. It’s been a long time since I read it. Perhaps it’s time for a re read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I took my time reading Americanah and Adichie’s bluntness is what struck home.
    She did not mince her words when it came to her characters life experiences and that kind of honesty is refreshing in any written work. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 100% with you one the authenticity of Adichies approach to social issues. She stayed true to herself and it definitely showed in her characters. I am planning on getting through her backlog both fiction and non fiction. Will be posting all my thoughts here

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I finished reading Americanah two days ago, and let me just say that I was absolutely blown away by the authenticity and beauty that Adichie presents through this novel. I am South African, and I felt as though Adichie brought to light integral issues around negotiating and expressing blackness. I am white, so I will never be fully able to understand the obstacles that confront black people, specifically black South Africans, but I most definitely feel as though Adichie has succeeded in educating white africans and non-africans alike around this extremely important subject. Her engagement with hair is also something that translates in South Africa, with various student protests taking place with regard to natural hair in schools (see Pretoria Girl’s High School). Thank you for this wonderful review! I look forward to reading more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My apologies for the late reply 🙂 I deeply agree with you on regards to her approach to major issues like race and authenticating the African culture and that is the best thing about this book every nation in the continent can relate on some level especially with immigration and culture shock. She is so well spoken and confident and it shows through her writing. This was my first book and I am definitely going to read more from her both fiction and non-fiction. Thank you for reading m review

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      1. Yeah… I’ve reached the part where Ifemelu is with Curt. But I love how she can tell you a story within a story without loosing you. I love the way she truly outs the truth about what immigrants truly go through. She made me understand all about the white supremacy. All this and I haven’t even finished the book. So entertaining

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      2. She is effortless in her storytelling 😄 The whole book is epic in its scope and we are introduced to many characters through Ifemelu and Obinze but as you said it isn’t overwhelming it just flows well 👌👌👌👌 Its a balance between informative and entertaining 🙌

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      3. I feel like I have a deep hollow that can only be filled by another of her books… Just Chimamanda’s books for me at the moment… I went and watched her videos on YouTube and I think I like this idea of being a feminist and being a proud African from hair to toe… I totally understand her fascination for hair especially African hair… I just loved the ending… After all the education, she still left me the longing to be Ifemelu

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I religiously watched her ted talks and she embodies the feminist aspects and carries herself so effortlessly. I so wish I could see her speak live her POV on social ideas, culture, politics and just everything is refreshing 🙌 I definitely need to own more of her texts they are vital 🙌

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