Book Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Romance, Fiction

“I only became black when I came to America.”

– Ifemelu

Americanah is a very intelligently put gutsy novel that animatedly talks about the contemporary American life through Nigerian eyes. Ifemelu dives into how the military and protestant way of life in old Nigeria compels her to fly to America, only to make her realise how difficult it was to even dream as a black person in America. There is a birth of a new Ifem as she discovers the passions of an American lifestyle, being entitled to carry her race and her African identity as a badge of an outcast from Brooklyn to New Haven; the start might have struck her like sour grapes but she soon catches up and leads us on a breath-taking adventure on becoming an Americanah. At the same time, she compares and contrasts the two different lives that she had been living, one in Nigeria and the other in America, and brings to light the dark, unchecked realms of both of her worlds, keeping the readers alerted and alive through till the showdown until she gets back to Nigeria, to her homely roots, her reincarnated Americanah self, sinking into her old Nigerian fairytale, to fulfil an incomplete wish.

Apart from the political hubbub of Nigeria and the black under-privileges of America, Adichie tells us a love story. A love that transcends time, a love that surpasses long distance and miscommunications, a love that seeds from self-affection, a love that honours brilliance of two minds and souls, a love that has got a hundred lives, a love that might have definitely touched YOU once and made truth of its presence some time.

The book makes you gasp at astonishing realities that Adichie has so bluntly expressed, it makes you suffer at the struggles of settling down in the American livelihood, it makes you believe in the good behind all the hustle and it makes you laugh.  The end ends the subtle mood swings on a perfect note, and the reader is left feeling respectful for the endearing adventure they have had, as much as the properly strung ending. It’s a book that you would never forget, a life you got to live in the most unexpected of ways.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. ..her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out.
  2. I like my hair the way God made it.
  3. There was something immodest about her modesty; it announced itself.
  4. ..you were praised for humility by people because you did not make them feel any more lacking than they already did.
  5. She laughed, too, whenever he said,”I am an agnostic respecter of religion,” and she would tell him how lucky he was to be married to her, because even though he went to church only for weddings and funerals, he would get into heaven on the wings of her faith.
  6. You can love without making love.
  7. She believed in other people’s happiness because it meant that she, too, might one day have it.
  8. They tell you in the guidebooks what to expect when you’re gay or if you’re a woman. Hell, they need to do it for if you’re recognisably black.
  9. Racism is absurd because it’s about how you look. Not about the blood you have.
  10. If the “slavery was so long ago” thing comes up, have your white friend say that lots of white folks are still inheriting money that their families made a hundred years ago. So if that legacy lives, why not the legacy of slavery?
  11. She still admired him, his moral fibre, his life of clean lines, but now it was admiration for a person separate from her, a person far away.
  12. You do not marry the man you love. You marry the one who can best maintain you.
  13. It’s very hard to be a clean public official in this country. Everything is set up for you to steal.
  14. There are many different ways to be poor in the world but increasingly there seems to be one single way to be rich.
  15. Love was a kind of grief. This was what the novelists meant by suffering.

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