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Random House LLC
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Americanah (Ala Notable Books for Adults) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 610 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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This is a wide ranging, smart novel that makes the ideas of race and color and gender real in the context of the sexual, political, religious and intellectual cultures of America, Nigeria and England. Ifemelu, the young woman we follow from Africa to America and back, at one point, frustrated by a young American white woman who asks about the book she is reading thinks, "Why (do) people ask “What is it about?” as if a novel ha(s) to be about only one thing." This novel is about many many things.
And though she is not optimistic about racism in America, Aditchie gives us one answer from Ifemelu: "The simplest solution to the problem of race in America? Romantic love. Not friendship. Not the kind of safe, shallow love where the objective is that both people remain comfortable. But real deep romantic love, the kind that twists you and wrings you out and makes you breathe through the nostrils of your beloved. And because that real deep romantic love is so rare, and because American society is set up to make it even rarer between American Black and American White, the problem of race in America will never be solved."
Ifemelu and Obinze are in love. They are teenagers in Lagos, Nigeria with big dreams for the future that, for the most part, do not involve Africa. Ifemelu has an opportunity to move to the United States for college. Obinze, who cannot get a visa, still encourages her to go. She lives a life separate from him and does something that is so destructive to her soul she fully separates herself from Obinze—without telling him why. The book alternates between their two stories, as well as in the past and present, but the writing is so perfect this all works seamlessly.
But more than anything else, "Americanah" is a book about life and hope. Love and regret. Racism, prejudice and justice. Leaving home and going back. It is a book that speaks truths profound and witty. It is a book to be cherished.
The love story centers around Ifemelu and Obinze, who fall in love as teenagers in their home country of Nigeria. As they approach adulthood, their lives take completely different paths. Ifemelu emigrates to the United States, where she attends college and then finds success writing a popular blog about race in America. Obinze embarks on a dangerous, undocumented life in London before returning home to Nigeria and becoming a wealthy businessman.
The two soulmates lose touch for years, and while they pursue other romantic relationships, each harbors a deep longing for the other. When Ifemelu finally returns home to Nigeria, their paths cross once again.
This was, as a whole, an uneven read for me. It took me a good 100+ pages to get into it, and then once I became truly invested in Ifemelu’s journey, it switched abruptly to the less interesting Obinze, then descended into a lackluster final act. At nearly 600 pages, I can understand how some readers find it difficult to stay engaged.
The thing is, Ifemelu’s experiences, plus her insights on the black immigrant experience and the complexities of race in America, make the book wholly worth reading. Her chapters frequently close with entries from her blog, and the blog entries—with titles like “Friendly Tips for the American Non-Black: How to React to an American Black Talking About Blackness”—are absolutely brilliant and essential. One of the things I found most fascinating throughout was her exploration of the differences between being a Non-American Black vs. an African American.
There’s a whole lot to absorb within these pages. This is a book that I’ll recommend to everyone I know, with the caveat that the relationship aspects of the story aren’t wholly original or inspired. What it lacks there, it more than makes up for everywhere else.