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Americanah Paperback – March 4, 2014
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“Dazzling. . . . Funny and defiant, and simultaneously so wise. . . . Brilliant.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A very funny, very warm and moving intergenerational epic that confirms Adichie’s virtuosity, boundless empathy and searing social acuity.” —Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King
“Masterful. . . . An expansive, epic love story. . . . Pulls no punches with regard to race, class and the high-risk, heart-tearing struggle for belonging in a fractured world.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“[A] knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. . . . A marvel.” —NPR
“A cerebral and utterly transfixing epic. . . . Americanah is superlative at making clear just how isolating it can be to live far away from home. . . . Unforgettable.” —The Boston Globe
“Witheringly trenchant and hugely empathetic . . . a novel that holds the discomfiting realities of our times fearlessly before us. . . . A steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Adichie is uniquely positioned to compare racial hierarchies in the United States to social striving in her native Nigeria. She does so in this new work with a ruthless honesty about the ugly and beautiful sides of both nations.” —The Washington Post
“Gorgeous. . . . A bright, bold book with unforgettable swagger that proves it sometimes takes a newcomer to show Americans to ourselves.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Americanah tackles the U.S. race complex with a directness and brio no U.S. writer of any color would risk.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“So smart about so many subjects that to call it a novel about being black in the 21st century doesn’t even begin to convey its luxurious heft and scope. . . . Capacious, absorbing and original.” —Jennifer Reese, NPR
“Superb . . . Americanah is that rare thing in contemporary literary fiction: a lush, big-hearted love story that also happens to be a piercingly funny social critique.” —Vogue
“A near-flawless novel.” —The Seattle Times
One of the Best Books of the Year
The New York Times • NPR • Chicago Tribune • The Washington Post • The Seattle Times • Entertainment Weekly • Newsday • Goodreads
One of Time's 10 Best Fiction Books of the 2010s
About the Author
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope: All-Story. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/ Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year; the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck; and the essays We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
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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.
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."
Needless to say, I absolutely adored this book. It was incredibly well-written and worth all 500+ pages necessary. The characters were so alive o felt like they were in the same room as me. This is definitely one of my all-time favorite books.
Top international reviews
Ifemelu is the titular Americanah, returning to Lagos, Nigeria, after shutting down her blog and a breakup. As she sits in a hair salon, getting her braids done, she reflects on her relationship with Obinze, whom she had left behind in Lagos, and become estranged with after a traumatic episode she suffered while she was a young postgrad in Philadelphia, and the backstory of their young love and her journey to the States ensues. The narrative weaves seamlessly through the past and present, and occasionally focuses on Obinze, though Ifemelu is clearly the main focaliser of the story.
Through Ifemelu's controversial blog on race relations in America, Adichie discusses weighty issues that Ifemelu confronts as a kind of insider-outsider where she is suddenly made aware of her skin colour and difference from African Americans, and the befuddling contradictions that go with asserting her identity. The contents of Ifemelu's blog, which are interspersed throughout most of the novel, is an effective way of broaching these issues without becoming too preachy or derailing the narrative.
Ifemelu is also struck by the attitudes of fellow immigrants from Nigeria. She observes of some online writers and what they would do after visiting their hometowns on hard-earned savings: "Afterwards, they would return to America to fight on the Internet over their mythologies of home, because home was now a blurred place between here and there, and at least online they could ignore the awareness of how inconsequential they had become."
As a novel that details characters' cross-cultural experiences, it is easy to lapse into caricature and generalisations, but Adichie succeeds in presenting a nuanced account which is both moving and thought-provoking.
I thought the book was well written, with an interesting insight into how Nigerians tick.
But a bit too repetitive for me, along with the subjects all being on how people are feeling , a bit girly touchy feely for me, along with all the inside / obsession with hairstyles.
Sorry not for me.
Concerning the content of the book itself, I could be a little biased as this is one of my favourite novels ever. A major part of the story concerns the still very debated issue of race in the USA. As a while European, I found many passages extremely eye-opening without trivialising the matter. Nonetheless, this is also a book about love. Love for a (fantastic and enviable) man, love for books, love for ourselves.
Thanks Chimamanda for this masterpiece!
One of the messages of the book is that, as a white person, you should just listen. Not rush in with an opinion or an evaluation. I have heard the same thing said by feminists for the same reasons and I would strongly recommend white men to read the book.
The only thing that bothered me about it was the emphasis on the heroine's beauty and sexiness. At one moment I am to believe that a man in a US supermarket tells her she is fat- and I think you have to be pretty big for that to happen there- and the next she is attracting a succession of men with her svelte charms. Something didn't add up and it stopped me giving the last star.
I read this book because it was up there on the list of books to read by women authors. It is the compelling tale of a young woman's journey to the United States and back to Nigeria again. Adichie has some tart observations about American society. She doesn't seem to love it much: there is no affectionate description of any of the little details of Americana, ironically enough, that might have made the descriptions of America equal to those of Nigeria.
At the end I'm not sure quite how to read the book: as satire, as a straight-forward love story, as a book for and about women, as a book about exile.
It is a well-written, well-structured novel that would appeal to any general reader. It will certainly educate you if you know nothing about Nigeria. It will give you depth of understanding if you know something.
Highly recommend it!
Coming from a sociology background I relished the whole story from beginning to end as it incorporated so many contemporary themes from modern Africa, life in the USA, immigration in Europe, brain drain, blogging, mental health, the current state of academia, soccer moms, hipsterim and so many more. The biggest learning for me, and other readers of course, was on the topic of Race. The author/protagonist had some fascinating observations on the position of Africans and black people in the US and the world.
I also learned personally from reading the book, as it made me think differently about Nigerian and African immigrants living in Ireland. I now look at them in a different light and wonder about their lives and where they get their hair done!
So the actual story was interesting but verged a bit on chicklit at times. I did like the character of Ifemelu but found Obinze a little flat, as I did with most of Ifemelu's friends. The characters that intrigued most were Shan (Blaine's sister) and Kimberley (Ifemelu's American boss) who reminded me of character types that I know but are not often captured in literature.
The writing style was engaging but from time to time it felt as though it was just narrating a passage of time rather than making it interesting, especially in the final chapters.
The ending was quite disappointing and inconclusive... I would happily welcome a sequel!
Americanah is at the same time extremely informative and a joy to read. A brilliant story encompassing class, race and identity. As the Guardian puts it " a love story but also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents....Gripping" It truly is and from the first page to the last, it was compulsive reading. Not only is it a love story but a very insightful comment on attitudes to race, gender roles, inequality, oppression - the social mores of Americans of all cultural and racial backgrounds; of Nigerians - particularly wealthy Nigerians - their culture, tradition versus modern attitudes.... fascinating characters.... I could go on.
Read it for yourself. Lovers of her books will be blown away. If it is your first time reading her, you'll become a new fan.