05 June 2015

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Publication: May 2013

# of Pages: 477

Source: Barnes & Noble/Purchased Copy

Goodreads Blurb/Summary: "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 suffers 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, Obinze 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 returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives."

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My Thoughts/Review:

Chimamanda's Americanah was such a gripping book, not only for her fluid writing style, but also for her ability to write a story that readers could so heavily connect to. While I find myself steering away from race when discussing literary reviews, it is nearly impossible when this book defines our perception of race. I will never forget my own personal experience with race when as a undergraduate student I participated in a forum that challenged what it means to be black in America versus what it means to be black in Africa. Quite a few of the points made in that forum are clearly outlined in this book.

Chimamanda brings forward what most of us are terrified to address, what most of us are terrified to see. What's most interesting is her ability to identify that the concept of race exists, yet it's meaning varies from person to person. She is even brave enough to question the meaning of identity. What does it mean to black? What does it mean to be hispanic, asian, or white? She even challenges the concept of the American dream. Our main character fantasizes about being like the characters of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "A Different World" (if you don't know what these are you have to check them out! ;D ), yet Ifemelu quickly finds that America is nothing like these infamous t.v. shows. Even the title speaks heavily to the concept of identity as Americanah refers to an African that has essentially become "Americanized."

But before I get too carried away, I must mention that Americanah is also a love story, one of second chances and redemption. It was not a romance founded upon "insta-love" or perfect gratification, but one that had ups and downs. In the end, the struggles faced by the main characters made their relationship more realistic.

While I enjoyed almost every aspect of this book, there were some minor things that I struggled with. Even though most parts of this book were written beautifully and laiden with detail, I did not particularly enjoy Obinze's perspective. In contrast to Ifemelu, his perspective was a little dry, but it did not take away from the overall beauty of the novel. Americanah is a praise worthy novel in which readers are truly given the opportunity to appreciate the concept of identity and feeling empowered by who you are. Watching Ifemelu and Obnize figure out who they were and what they meant to each other was stunningly beautiful. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding and respecting the power of self discovery.

Rating: 4.5/5 

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