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Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,9162221,546 (4.17)451
"A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected"--
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» See also 451 mentions

English (205)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  Finnish (2)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (2)  Piratical (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (222)
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
The voice here is wonderful and the observations on American, British and Nigerian cultures and the ways they interact are pointed, inventive and often thrillingly acerbic. The novel is very insightful and unsparing on American academic culture as well, often painfully so.

I loved this sentence, which perfectly captures the puffed up importance of so many young academics (black, white or purple):

A precious performance, Blaine had called it, in that gently forbearing tone he used when they talked about novels, as though he was sure that she, with a little more time and a little more wisdom, would come to accept that the novels he liked were superior, novels written by young and youngish men and packed with things, a fascinating, confounding accumulation of brands and music and comic books and icons, with emotions skimmed over, and each sentence stylishly aware of its own stylishness.

Perhaps my reading experience was also enhanced by the copy I read, distributed to advisers to incoming Duke undergrads. I don't mind that the cover was stamped with a "Class of 2018" Duke seal. But why did the white male dean have to include his letter to undergrads on the very first page, as if we needed his wisdom prior to delving into this masterful work? As if, without his intro, somehow the underlying value of Adichie's work would be lost? It's a development that I think the author herself would find rich, funny and telling. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Any time you travel, one of the weirdest and most interesting things is figuring out how to react to a different set of social norms. Ifemelu, the Nigerian-born-and-raised protagonist of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, experiences this kind of cultural whiplash twice: once, when she transfers from her university in Nigeria to a small college in Pennsylvania and then the second time, fifteen years later when she decides to return to Lagos. That Ifemelu is black and only really experiences what it's like to be black in a predominantly white world once she gets to the United States, as well as the gap between African-Americans and Africans in America inspires her to start a blog about race, which becomes a major source of income for her and helps earn her a fellowship at Princeton. Once the fellowship is over, she shuts down her blog, leaves her longtime boyfriend, and prepares to go back to Nigeria.

She's nervous about going back, not so much because she doesn't have anything lined up there but because it means she'll be back in the same place as Obinze, the man she loved in high school and college but is no longer in touch with. Adichie uses one of my favorite framing devices to structure her novel: she begins with Ifemelu just before she leaves the US, shows us how she got there through flashbacks, and then proceeds forward. I love getting some information but not all of it right up front: it makes me intensely curious to find out how the situation we first encountered came to be. I hate mystery-style books where all the "answers" are backloaded...it makes the rest of the book feel like it's treading water before the payoff at the end. Those just leave me annoyed by the time I get to the end, but unwrapping the narrative layers one by one keeps me hooked. And Americanah had me like a fish on a hook.

Not only is her story structure one that I personally respond well to, but Adichie's writing is absolutely magnificent. I marked what feels like half of the book because she has a such a knack for taking feelings that you have or you recognize and phrasing it in a way that hits you right in the gut because it's so dead on and perfect and you never thought about it like that before. And I loved the way she wrote Ifemelu and Obinze's relationship, from their charmed young love to the reason for their separation and that Adichie isn't afraid to give them new partners, partners they experience happiness with even. There's context and nuance, not just to their relationship, but to their lives. The whole book explores shades of gray, no one is either a saint or a villain. They're people, trying hard and messing up and trying again. I think one of the most important things about reading is its potential to increase empathy, to see people outside of the ones like you as having the same kinds of hopes and dreams and fears as you even if their experiences don't look exactly the same. This book is a beautifully written examplar of that exact principle. It's completely fantastic and I totally loved every second of reading it and I recommend it highly. ( )
  GabbyHM | Jun 24, 2020 |
4.5 stars
After having read the stunning Half of a Yellow Sun, I was really looking forward to reading more of Adichie’s work. She did not disappoint with Americanah. Though I do feel the storyline could’ve used a clearer direction (maybe telling the story in chronological order or more chapters from Obinze’s point of view), Adichie managed to describe the complexity of racial issues in an elegant yet direct way. I especially enjoyed the first half of the book when the story took place in Nigeria - it gave me, a European, a lot of insight into the modern life and social dynamics of Nigeria. The romance felt slightly off and predictable at times, but I enjoyed their chemistry nevertheless. Adichie once again proves she’s a gifted writer with this honest novel. ( )
  frtyfour | Jun 16, 2020 |
Plot:
Ifemelu and Obinze fell in love in high school in Nigeria. But after Ifemelu left to go to college in the USA, they fell out of touch. Fifteen years later, Ifemelu is ready to return home, despite the fact that she has a successful blog about race relations in the USA, a settled life and a nice boyfriend. As she prepares for her return, she also reconnects with Obinze who spent some time in the UK and has since become a rich man in Nigeria.

Americanah is an interesting novel with sharp observations that I nevertheless struggled with. It is definitely insightful about race, but the story just didn’t come together for me.

Read more on my blog: https://kalafudra.com/2020/06/12/americanah-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie/ ( )
  kalafudra | Jun 12, 2020 |
Perhaps the tragedy of Adichie's writing is that Half of a Yellow Sun is so brilliant that if that's the first of her works you read, everything else ends up disappointing. And doubly disappointing because I really like Adichie, the political comments she makes and such, and I really wanted to like this book… but it fell flat for me.

I've mentioned in a number of previous reviews that I get uncomfortable when a novel is a thinly veiled political polemic. Mostly, I get uncomfortable when the narrative gets twisted and contorted to fit an agenda (even if I agree with that agenda!!) because I appreciate good story-telling too much. Anyway, I don't think Americanah is as bad on that front as some other people have made out, but it has some issues. At least half the book is random characters (many of which appear once or twice) discussing issues of race, which isn't really a problem, until the climax of the book is derailed by a group of random, never-before-seen businessmen discussing the problems of the Nigerian economy. Or I mean, I guess it's a slight problem in that the plot of the book ends up feeling very thin, even though it isn't really, just because the plot gets dealt with so fleetingly and sparingly just so more space can be given over to these observations. And it's not that the observations aren't interesting, or even uninterestingly written. They just get in the way of the telling of the story.

Then some of the characterisation is very weird. There are some characters (ahem, Shan) who are just bizarre – superficial reproductions of an archetype, I guess (in this case, the self-absorbed academic), and in Shan's case she has some weird magnetic pull that makes everyone in her presence worship her, so not only is she annoying herself, but she makes every single character who shares a scene with her annoying too! Magic.

As for the star-crossed lovers of the blurb, they bothered me for different reasons too. I agree with someone else who's reviewed this book who said that Obinze just does not have the personality of a wealthy businessmen. No one in the real world would "make it" having a conscience like that. Ifemelu on the other hand might (if only she weren't a woman…!); I started to intensely dislike her when, from the moment she returned to Nigeria, she revelled in her upper-class status and started to treat every service worker she met like shit. I would like to think that Adichie's politics are good enough that Ifemelu's characterisation was deliberate – that she was including some subtle commentary on class in a very unsubtle treatise on race. (Lack of subtlety not necessarily being a bad thing – I agree with one of her characters (even though it was probably Shan, ugh) who thought the insistence on "nuance" was usually a way of pandering to the fragile feelings of the privileged.) Anyway, hopefully that was indeed the intention, rather than a weird blindspot when it comes to the reality of class society.

It is a mystery to me why the blurb is what it is (i.e. misleading); Ifemelu and Obinze rekindle their romance 88% of the way through the book, and it's safe to say that the so-called "toughest decisions of their lives" are not the crux of the story. Nor existent, in Ifemelu's case. It looks like the paperback's blurb is better. Still, this isn't really a story about love; it's a story about globalisation and race. There are some lovely quotes about how those things intersect. At one point late in the book, Ifemelu comments that if her American boyfriends had come from the same cultural background as her, she's not sure they'd have had anything to say to each other. That had some resonance with me, although not fully.

Hmm, I got really distracted from this and I'm not sure how to wrap it up. I would still say it's worth reading, especially if you don't have a Tumblr and don't read similar observations on race all day every day. (Speaking of which, I'm surprised I haven't seen Americanah quotes floating around on there!) Just don't get your hopes up, because if you're not expecting brilliance like I was, you'll probably enjoy this much better. (Oct 2013) ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
The stories have shifted, too. Nowadays, there’s little angsting about national identity in a post-colonial context or, for that matter, over catastrophe and want. Instead, a bevy of young Africans are shaping the future of fiction, reportage and critique on their continent, and perhaps well beyond.

“It’s beyond an evolution — it’s a revolution,” says Nigerian-American Ikhide Ikheloa, a critic and prominent observer of the scene.

It may have begun in 2003, when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published — and not just by an American publisher but by a Nigerian one, too. By now, Adichie is the still-young doyenne of the contemporary African lit scene. Her recent novel, Americanah, found a perch on the New York Times list of top 10 novels of 2013 — just weeks before Beyoncé sampled one of Adichie’s TED talks on her new album.

Read more: Printed in Africa | Fast forward | OZY
added by elwetritsche | editOzy, Pooja Bhatia (Jan 31, 2014)
 
But what makes the book such a good read—despite an anticlimactic ending—is that it's not meant as a cultural criticism, but more as a series of rich observations.
added by WeeklyAlibi | editWeekly Alibi, Mark Lopez (Jul 4, 2013)
 
“Americanah” examines blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain, but it’s also a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience — a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, MIKE PEED (Jun 7, 2013)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngoziprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andoh, AdjoaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weintraub, AbbyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
This book is for our next generation, nda na-abia n'iru: Toks, Chisom, Amaka,

Chinedum, Kamsiyonna and Arinze

For my wonderful father in this, his eightieth year

And, as always, for Ivara.
First words
Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and Ifemelu like the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately shops and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly.
Quotations
...her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out.
How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives that we have imagined.
She was taking two sides at once, to please everyone; she always chose peace over truth, was always eager to conform.
She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself. With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.
She liked how he wore their relationship so boldly, like a brightly colored shirt. Sometimes she worried that she was too happy. She would sink into moodiness, and snap at Obinze, or be distant. And her joy would become a restless thing, flapping its wings inside her, as though looking for an opening to fly away.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu - beautiful, self-assured - departs for America to study. She experiences defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race.

Obinze - the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor - had hoped to join her, but post 9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Years later, he is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu decides to return home, she and Obinze will face the toughest decisions of their lives.
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