Literary Postmortem: Americanah

I will start by saying “long live Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, long live”. What a woman, what a storyteller.

There is nothing I didn’t love about this novel. Well at first I looked at the tiny bible-like print with a bit of a side eye but it grew on my eyes.

In the past two to three years, I have made a conscious effort to read more African authors because frankly even though I was an English Literature student, I was starved for stories told by my people, about my people for my people. This novel lived up to this preference through and through.

From the very first paragraph to the last one on page four hundred and something – she had me. Not to compare, but Americanah filled the historic/political/social gap I found in NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names.

In Americanah there is an effort made to make the reader truly see and understand Nigeria, its people and its politics. In no way forced or didactic, but rather she chose to edify us by way of conversation. The whole book felt like a collection of stories told by that very interesting person at the party who has everyone in the room enthralled. It almost felt like a very long, well-written, witty blog post – which I loved.

In a nutshell the story follows Ifemelu – a woman you will come to love and hate – from her childhood and teenage years in Nigeria, to her years spent in “exile” in America-land. I say exile like that because she really only went there because life in her home country was not conducive to her growth at the time, which is what going to exile is partly about. People leave because they have to not because they want to – it’s about fleeing from restriction really (well to my mind).

The bulk of the book speaks to two of my favourite topics, love and race. It’s a great love story, one that had me falling in love with Obinze (the love of her life) chapter by chapter. He is perfect because of his imperfections and somewhat simple nature. He loves her in an all encompassing way but never smothering. Their story is weaved into every corner of the book, much like her longing for him when they are apart. Without quite knowing it until the very end, he is everything.

I found it fascinating that race only became an issue for Ifemulu when she stepped off this continent full of people who look like her without question. I like that she tackles race head-on in her personal life and goes as far as to start a blog dedicated to confronting the race problem in America. She puts excerpts of the blog in the book, which was another highlight while reading.

Her characters are complicated, irritating even frustrating and that made for a more authentic read. I liked that i didn’t like everyone all the time because that is our reality. People are disappointing, fearful, childish, racist, arrogant and and and.

If my opinion counts for anything I would say in fifty years this will be one of those books we call classic, hell I’ll call it that now. Read it. Re-read it. Make people you love read it.

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