I have been meaning to read Americanah forever. Like, forever forever. Somehow, something always managed to get in the way- until I boarded a nine hour flight and was out of excuses. Yet, I was still hesitant. Maybe, I realize, unconciously, I did not want to read Americanah. I am comfortable where I am in the Young Adult genre. I know the authors and every book released- there are no surprises (and when there are, I either love them or hate them). In other genres, such as Adult, I am not so confident. But, Americanah seemed too good to ignore, so after going through all my Spotify playlists, and exhausting the plane’s movie selection, I opened it up.
Americanah follows Ifemelu and Obinze- high school and college sweethearts from Lagos, Nigeria. After college, Ifemelu moves to America, and Obinze, denied a visa because of his nationality, heads to England. Ifemelu continues her studies as wells as becoming a nanny. Obinze, on the other hand, becomes a toilet cleaner relying on the charity of his friends and relatives. Given this harsh reality of immigration- especially immigration from a non-European, non-white country, Ifemelu and Obinze are forced to confront how their race and nationality contributes to the challenges they face. Ifemelu perhaps is more successful in doing this- she writes frequently and candidly about being a NAB (Non American Black) on a well known blog. Yet, a series of events leads the two sweethearts to break contact, yet throughout their lives, Ifemelu and Obinze do not fail to think of each other.
“The other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood… the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for for choice and certainty.”
Americanah forced me to consider my privilege not only as a white person but as an American- and how I often take for granted what opportunities I have because of these traits. What makes Americanah so exceptional however is that Adichie manages to educate about race relations while also weaving in a story of personal growth and discovery. I am so excited to read more of Adichie’s work.