Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was my first experience of the much talked
about novelist’s writing. More than anything, I found the novel to be an enlightening
documentation of the political and social dynamics that are attached to being black.
These dynamics are relayed through the experiences of Ifemelu, the main character,
and her counterparts. Ifemelu is a young black woman of Nigerian decent; the story
begins at a significant turning point in her life as she prepares to move back to
Nigeria after living in the USA for several years.
Adichie transports one to the different periods of Ifemelu’s life journey, from growing
up in Nigeria, moving to the USA and returning to her homeland once again. Her experience
of the vastly different worlds challenges all aspects of her African identity; this
includes her love life, career, and general social life. In an attempt to release her
frustrations and make sense of it all, Ifemelu begins to blog about the various obstacles
she faces as a young African woman that lives in the co-ercive grip of white supremacy.
While the novel predominately focuses on political and social issues, it also illuminates
the love shared between Ifemelu and her significant other, Obinze. The two lovers embark
on individual journeys that put a strain on their relationship, despite the trials and
tribulations their love remains unshaken. Whilst most of the themes touched on in the novel
are rather hard-hitting, Adichie’s relay of romantic passion between the characters adds an
element of light-heartedness.
As an African that has not yet travelled beyond Africa, I was drawn to the perspective that
Americanah sheds on the experiences of black people living and/or travelling abroad. It
substantiated some of the stories I have heard from well travelled black Africans and further
affirmed some of the thoughts and feelings I have about the white supremacy that exists
abroad. I found it particularly interesting how Ifemelu struggled to settle back into the
Nigerian lifestyle when she finally returned home. This reminded me of a chat I had with Bassey
Ikpi back in 2014, she echoed similar sentiments about her return to Nigeria after living in
the USA for most of her life. Reflective moments like these made Americanah that much more
I was drawn to Ifemelu’s charming character. She is intelligent, critical, courageous, adventurous,
funny and whimsical. I enjoyed walking in her shoes. Adichie’s documentation of love and the
complexities of blackness in Americanah made it an enlightening read that left me reflecting on my
personal experiences of the two themes as an African woman.
Published: 2016-08-17 - 05:03:52