Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


I AM UPSET. AT PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING. This book, Ifemelu, Obinze, that ending that I’m not sure if wanted or not, GAH.

(Also, spoilers)

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever loved a book so much, yet hated it all the same. That and I finished it too fast.

Americanah follows Ifemelu and Obinze, high school and university sweethearts who have grown apart for varying reasons, mostly having to do with moving abroad. Both had the goal of leaving Lagos, their hometown in Nigeria for work and education reasons. Ifemelu attends grad school in the Northeast of the United States while Obinze attempts to work in London but later is deported back to Lagos. Both have their separate stories but they eventually come together again when Ifemelu returns to Lagos after her fellowship at Princeton is done. Both have their separate successes and both have their failures, but when they are together again, it’s obvious that old flames die hard.

First of all, Americanah had me hooked from the beginning, and I hated having to tear myself away from the book to study for exams or get varying amounts of work done. All I wanted to do was find out the fate of Ifemelu’s latest relationship or Obinze’s marriage. But I must admit, I found myself becoming irritated at them both. Ifemelu just drove practically everyone away who loved her most, including her family and a string of boyfriends during her time in America. She also had a rather “holier-than-thou” attitude most of the time that irked me a bit, but I understood where it was coming from. Also, I know they were both lovers and were essentially made for each other, but did Obinze really have to walk out on his wife AND HIS DAUGHTER to be with Ifemelu in the end?? Was that really necessary. I’ll admit, from the beginning I wanted them to end up together, but after reading the circumstances leading up to that point, I got irritated at Obinze. In my opinion, they both need to mature a bit.

One of the things I did enjoy were the bits about Ifemelu’s observations on race and culture as a non-American black. Since I’m African-American (relevantly, really just American), I never really notice our little quirks and actions (I mostly want to focus on the American weirdness at this point, because we can be quite weird). Some things can of course be offensive or micro-aggressive, but some stuff is just plain odd. For example, we pepper our conversations with “like” or “you know?” or “seriously” and we tend to speak in run-on sentences, abusing conjunctions as we go along. Ifemelu mentions that American students say “I’m not sure” rather than “I don’t know” when asked a question they don’t know the answer to; her reasoning why is that we Americans don’t want to seem like we don’t know something, so we say “I’m not sure” to show a possibility of knowledge rather than admitting the absence of it. Whether this is true or not, I’m not sure (see what I did there?), but it’s an interesting concept. It definitely made me think of my own little American quirks. Since I’ve been studying in Spain, I’ve noticed the differences between Americans and Europeans (as well as almost everybody else since there’s a huge international community here).

But seriously, this book is like, you know, the best book ever, and I want to read it over and over again without stopping and reading other books because they’re not as good and I caN’T BELIEVE IT’S OVER MAKE IT COME BACK LIKE YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ IT!!!11!!!!

But actually. Read it. Love it. And hate it at the same time.


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