The bestselling novel—and one of Barack Obama’s summer reading picks—from the award-winning author of We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele.
“From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.” —Barack Obama
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A Nigerian woman studying in America confronts issues of race and identity—and an emotional return to a country that doesn’t feel like home—in this witty, warm-hearted novel.
Adichie burst onto the literary scene in 2006 with Half of a Yellow Sun, her searing depiction of the civil war in Nigeria. Her equally compelling and important new novel follows the lives of that country s postwar generation as they suffer endemic corruption and poverty under a military dictatorship. An unflinching but compassionate observer, Adichie writes a vibrant tale about love, betrayal, and destiny; about racism; and about a society in which honesty is extinct and cynicism is the national philosophy. She broadens her canvas to include both America and England, where she illuminates the precarious tightrope existence of culturally and racially displaced immigrants. The friendship of Ifemelu and Obinze begins in secondary school in Lagos and blossoms into love. When Ifemelu earns a scholarship to an American college, Obinze intends to join her after his university graduation, but he s denied a U.S. visa. He manages to get to London where his plight is typical of illegal immigrants there: he uses another man s ID so he can find menial, off-the-grid work, with the attendant loss of dignity and self-respect. The final blow comes when he s arrested and deported home. Ifemelu, meanwhile, faces the same humiliations, indignities, and privations first in New York, then in Philadelphia. There, attending college, she s unable to find a job and descends to a degrading sexual act in order to pay her rent. Later she becomes a babysitter for a wealthy white family and begins writing a provocative blog on being black in America that bristles with sharp, incisive observations about racism. Ifemelu writes that the painful, expensive process of relaxing kinky African hair to conform to cultural expectations brings black women dangerously close to self-hatred. In time the blog earns Ifemelu fame and a fellowship to Princeton, where she has love affairs with a wealthy white man and, later, an African-American Yale professor. Her decision to return home to Nigeria (where she risks being designated as an affected Americanah ) is the turning point of the novel s touching love story and an illuminating portrait of a country still in political turmoil. Announced first printing of 60,000.
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Americanah is centered around a romance in one of the least romantic ways. It is the one consistency kept through out the book. Obinze and Ifemelu are somewhat star-crossed lovers. They barely interact, but when their narratives are placed next to each, they reveal transcendent ideas about society and the lives we live. Both are immigrants that eventually go back to their homeland. Throughout the course of their lives they obtain and lose several jobs, relationships, mental states, all of which are both relatable and reflective. This book is a broad social commentary and as expected, shows some of the dark sides of our world. The sides that most don’t like to say out loud. Although many of the ideas and events presented can be controversial, this book has helped me think about topics, especially race, in a new light. She also has uncovered many experiences that black people in America face, which is something that I could never experience for myself. Even the fact that it shares the black perspective in such a transparent and blunt way is something that many of us need. We need to stop tolerating others who are different and start trying to truly connect and relate to them to cure the plague of discrimination.
When I first began reading the novel I wasn’t sure what to expect. But one thing was clear from the start: Ngozi Adichie can write. Ever page is extremely well written. Especially the blog posts that she scattered throughout the novel. These blog posts to me are what her writing unique. It provided for a diversified narrative. It gives the author the ability to tell a first hand narrative and then let that narrator speak directly to the audience to explicitly get points across. It creates a depth of discussion where Adichie can state compelling arguments plainly. At the same time, she can subtly review other over arching themes and ideas through literary devises such as mood, language, plot sequence, and setting.
One of the weak points of the novel was the characters. There was little to no character development. It was as if the character were static with bursts of change. Also, most of the supporting character we very one-dimensional. It was as if they all were predictable symbols rather than people who have more than one face. The ending to the book also fell short. It was if the novel was a series of attacks on our current discriminatory culture portrayed as idle proposed notions, but the end felt like a new book. It was similar to a boxing fight when the victor is too exhausted to finished with a decisive blow.
Despite all of that, the novel for me had more pros than cons. Besides the excellent rhetoric, the ideas present in the book were nothing short of compelling. The book tells the story of a new type of Africa. The one that has pride and dignity. The main characters were black immigrants that choose to make the better life for themselves. It wasn’t the story we always hear. It was a story most Americans can relate to. Immigration in their case is similar to going to a good college or moving to a town with opportunity. Once they are in the country, that’s when it really gets good. Viewing our world from an outsider may be the only way to see old trends from a new perspective. It washes away the justifications we have made for centuries and replacing them with a different and updated explanation.
Americanah is something everyone should read because it brings us one step closer to understanding and open discussion of the perception of differences.
This novel, so beautifully written, was enlightening, courageous and thought-provoking. Thank you for taking the time to effortlessly describe the true and actual human emotions of culture and time. I applaud your candid, vivid picture of American and Nigerian life. Please tell me more!
Great story-telling. As always, i've loved her every book, not because the stories are great, but the way they were told.
This particular book, i enjoyed greatly because i could almost see myself in Ifemelu. If she lived in Enugu, i would claim she was telling my story.
I read the book in 2 nights. Interesting. Funny. Nigerian. Truthfully Nigerian.
I will totally read it again.