Genre: Afrolit, Literary Fiction, Feminism, Cultural, Contemporary
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!?
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…
“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 chose 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.”
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?
Thank you for visiting 🙂
So until next time stay Bookish 😉