Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chi's Thoughts - Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


I'm going to start off by saying that I'm a big fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's work (well in advance of Beyonce's surprise album release I might add). I've read all of her books (Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Son, The Thing Around Your Neck, and now Americanah), and I think she's a brilliant writer. She's able to create characters that you really become invested in.

Americanah is a book about a girl discovering race and racism in America. The book follows Ifemelu, a young girl from Nigeria, who moves to America to go to school and is trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in this new world. Race plays into every aspect of her life - education, romantic relationships, work, and you get to see how she handles all of that. A parallel story is also told of Obinze, her college boyfriend, who she left behind in Nigeria, and you get to see the life he lives and how different (and at times similar) their circumstances are. Their paths do eventually cross again many years later and they must deal with the remnants of their dissolved relationship. This book doesn't wrap things up in a neat little bow for you. There are times you really want these characters, individually and collectively, to win but Adichie quickly dashes those hopes. To give the reader greater insights into these characters, Adichie goes back and forth between the past and the present allowing them to tell their stories.

As the story progresses, both characters make important realizations about who they are and what they want for themselves. And in an interesting turn of fate (without revealing too much), you get to see that as they finally get the things out of life that they were so hungry for in the beginning, it's not as magical for them as they had imagined. This is the kind of book that makes you think about how you're viewed by the world and ultimately how that influences how you look at yourself. I highly recommend it!

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