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Americanah (Ala Notable Books for Adults) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 14, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 2,857 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* To the women in the hair-braiding salon, Ifemelu seems to have everything a Nigerian immigrant in America could desire, but the culture shock, hardships, and racism she’s endured have left her feeling like she has “cement in her soul.” Smart, irreverent, and outspoken, she reluctantly left Nigeria on a college scholarship. Her aunty Uju, the pampered mistress of a general in Lagos, is now struggling on her own in the U.S., trying to secure her medical license. Ifemelu’s discouraging job search brings on desperation and depression until a babysitting gig leads to a cashmere-and-champagne romance with a wealthy white man. Astonished at the labyrinthine racial strictures she’s confronted with, Ifemelu, defining herself as a “Non-American Black,” launches an audacious, provocative, and instantly popular blog in which she explores what she calls Racial Disorder Syndrome. Meanwhile, her abandoned true love, Obinze, is suffering his own cold miseries as an unwanted African in London. MacArthur fellow Adichie (The Thing around Your Neck, 2009) is a word-by-word virtuoso with a sure grasp of social conundrums in Nigeria, East Coast America, and England; an omnivorous eye for resonant detail; a gift for authentic characters; pyrotechnic wit; and deep humanitarianism. Americanah is a courageous, world-class novel about independence, integrity, community, and love and what it takes to become a “full human being.” --Donna Seaman

From Bookforum

It is not a stretch to say that her finely observed new book, which combines perfectly calibrated social satire and heartfelt emotion, stands with Invisible Man and The Bluest Eye as a defining work about the experience of being black in America.--Ruth Franklin

Product Details

  • Series: Ala Notable Books for Adults
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307271080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307271082
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,857 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who grew up in Nigeria, was shortlisted for the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. Her work has been selected by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the BBC Short Story Awards and has appeared in various literary publications, including Zoetrope and The Iowa Review.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the opening of this long and too, too solid novel, Ifemelu, its protagonist is about to return to Nigeria when her fellowship at Princeton ends. After fifteen years in America, she has learned enough to write a lifestyle blog called "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black." A mouthful, but she has eyes in her head and a savage wit. Before it even develops as a story, Adichie's book is likely to interest us in much the same way that a blog would, whether to convey Ifemelu's first impressions of America (starting with tipping, dressing down for parties, and how to get a job on a student visa), or her flashbacks to her native land. Watching her grow up in Lagos, for example, we meet her father who is sacked from his civil service job for his refusal to address his superior as "Mummy," and her cousin Uju, a fully-qualified doctor who nonetheless lives as the kept mistress of a prominent General. Simply on the level of information and what can be gleaned from a different viewpoint, the book is fascinating.

But what about the story? If you read the summary inside the cover (presumably to become the book-flap blurb), you will see that it starts with two high-school sweethearts in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze. You read that Ifemelu will obtain a visa for the USA and move there for fifteen years, but that Obinze, who stayed to finish his degree in Nigeria, was excluded by an America fearful after 9/11 so instead spent several years living illegally in London. Finally, you will be told that Ifemelu and Obinze meet up again on her return and "face the toughest decisions of their lives.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Americanah is a wonderful epic saga of love, hair, blogs, racism in America, and life in Nigeria. It takes place over a period of about 15 years and is primarily about a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu and her first love, Obinze. The word Americanah refers to a person who returns to Nigeria after time abroad.

The main part of the story takes place in a hair salon in Trenton, New Jersey. Ifemelu is on a fellowship at Princeton and the nearest place to get weaves is in Trenton. As she is getting her hair done she goes back in time and the reader gets filled in with her life story.

Ifemelu grew up in poverty in Lagos. She managed to go to university there and won a scholarship to Wellson, a college in Philadelphia. There, she struggles with money and finds it very difficult to get a job. She knows little about the culture and "she hungered to understand everything about America, to wear a new, knowing skin right away." When she does work, she sends money back home to her parents. Ifemulu's primary job is as a nanny. She describes the dynamics of her employer's marriage as `she loves him and he loves himself'. She is introduced to her employer's cousin Curt and Ifemelu and he have a relationship for quite a while. His being white and rich cause some difficulties for them.

Ifemelu has cut off all contact with Obinze despite the fact that they had planned to be together. She had made a choice to do something that left her shamed and abased and she is unable to tell Obinze about it. So, rather than tell him, she severs their contact. He is distraught and does not know what to do. He continues to write to her for months but there is no answer from Ifemelu.

Meanwhile, Obinze goes to London where he lives underground after his six month visa expires.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was so disappointed by this. Half of a Yellow Sun is a brilliant novel, and I mean brilliant: if you haven't read it yet, stop reading reviews of this one and get yourself a copy! Purple Hibiscus is quite good as well. So I was excited to see that Adichie had written another novel.... or so I thought. This turned out to be more like a 477-page opinion essay with some characters thrown in.

Read the blurb and you'll be told Americanah is about a pair of star-crossed lovers from Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze, following their adventures as immigrants in the U.S. and U.K. respectively. Technically that's in the book, but Americanah is really a series of vignettes in which an endless parade of minor characters talk about race, nationality, and various other issues, with Ifemelu in the background. (Obinze is here more as her love interest than a protagonist in his own right, and we only get a few chapters from his perspective.)

If you're looking for a book about race in America and aren't concerned about story, by all means, give this a try; Adichie has plenty to say on the subject. But for me this bloated book was a complete slog--I read 5 others from start to finish while plodding through it. The most interesting parts of the characters' lives, the moments when something is actually at stake, are breezed through in narrative summary, while the book focuses in on mundane conversations illustrating Adichie's points about race.
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35 Comments 303 of 360 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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