I had heard many things about Americanah and about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as a writer so I was very eager to read this novel. I am always eager to hear of the experiences of Africans in America, their perceptions on the racial structure of America, and of Black Americans. I think it is important to view America through the eyes of immigrants and foreigners as to get a much clearer perception of how we truly are in this country. I loved the flow of the book, I was immediately addicted. With novels, it usually takes me a few weeks to read, picking up the novel and putting it down, reading it hear or there. But Americanah was so delightful to read. It was relatable and lovely. Chimamanda wrote in a way where you, as the reader, were able to sympathize with the characters. This story takes you on a journey from Nigeria to America then back where we were able to see how the characters evolve over the time spent in a place that was foreign to them. When I think back on the novel, which I finished last week, it plays in my mind as a movie. the story flowed so magically between the present and the past, while anticipating the future.
On the issue of race in this novel, I think it brought up some interesting dynamics. We got to see Ifemelu’s relationship with a white American man and a conscious Black American man. In both relationships we were able to see the barriers that race has unknowingly placed on love. In her relationship with curt, we see her experience what it meant to be black for the first time, dating a white man. She was never able to articulate to him the things that she was experiencing in a way that he could understand. Because of the racial difference, he wasn’t able to understand her fully and relate to her. With Blaine, the division between them was his black consciousness, I will say, to the American racial system and her lack of understanding and experience due to her being Nigerian and not necessarily “Black in America.” Two very contrasting relationships where in both worlds Ifem did not fit completely, but to me were beautiful nonetheless.
This novel also explores African assimilation into black culture in America and the lack and shame thereof. No one wants to be Black in America, not even Africans. We see this through Auntie Uju especially. Auntie does not want Dike to assimilate himself in ways that she believes Black American children behave (but are more so stereotyped to behave). Dike, not understanding race must try to find his place in a country where he’s been his entire life, black but not black. He’s automatically placed within the constructs of the negative image that America paints of black boys.
I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in a story of race and love. There are some interesting discussions to be had here on race, nationally and internationally, and the effects of categorizing and stereotyping people in a largely negative way thus causing hideous and negative affects on all people. I look forward to reading more novels by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am adding Half of a Yellow Sun to my reading list.