I saw a friend reading this book and asked to borrow it. I’d previously read Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (very sad, sometimes shocking but highly recommended) and greatly enjoyed this author’s style of writing. Americanah did not disappoint. It’s beautifully written and easy to read.
It tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, young Nigerian lovers separated when Ifemelu moves to the US to continue her university studies (due to constant strikes in her home country). After completing university, Obinze spends time as an illegal immigrant in the UK before returning to Nigeria and becoming very successful. Ifemelu becomes a prominent blog writer in the US but nevertheless decides to return home.
We’re told stories of their experience as immigrants, as newly minted minorities, in their new countries but we’re also told of their life in Nigeria, their upbringing and experiences and those of their families. We can see what each person lost and gained by their relocation, how much can be sacrificed by people searching for a better life in a new country. Their experiences are laid bare with equal measures brutal honesty and humour.
When they both return to Nigeria, we see the changes in both Ifemelu and Obinze and in the country, under its new government. They dance around one another. Will they or won’t they get back together?
As a previous immigrant (to Jamaica) and always minority wherever I go (not many other Australian-Puerto-Ricans, I’m guessing), I was able to draw many parallels to my own experiences. However, my life was much easier compared to what goes on in Americanah. My friend who read it and isn’t a minority said she found the book incredibly eye-opening. It’s hard for a person who isn’t a minority to ‘know what they don’t know’. When a whole society is geared towards your race/class/gender, you don’t, can’t really see how privileged you are.
Personally, I blitzed through the book, not wanting to put it down, always wanting to know what would happen next, even though its not a thriller or a book where you’d expect any kind of crazy twist at the end. If nothing else, it’s at least a thought provoking and fascinating book about race, immigration, class, love, hell even gender. Definitely recommended.