“Why did people ask “What is it about?” as if a novel had to be about only one thing.”
The quote above is the ultimate summary of this book. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a multitude of things. Race, immigration, politics, relationships, a journey to America, a journey home to Nigeria, and a love story that is interwoven throughout the story.
I have never read anything by Adichie before, but have always wanted to. I do love the way she writes, but at some points I was completely lost. This book is over 500 pages long and it could have easily been 200. At times it reads as an indulgent writing project with a lack of edits.
“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”
This book is good. Very good. It gave me a perspective of what it would be like to come to America for the first time. The main protagonist, Ifemelu, decides to leave Nigeria and make a name for herself in the US. The struggles of finding a job, learning the culture, simply fitting in while battling homesickness follows. I enjoyed reading about her adjusting to a different life. On the other hand, I absolutely hated the love story.
The love interest begins in her teenage years with Obinze. They continue their relationship when she moves away and things drift apart. She dates various other men during her time in America. He moves on with his life, gets married, and has a child. So Ifemelu returns to Nigeria and they eventually pick back up where they left off. This made me so mad. Based on the entire relationship previous to the last 100 pages or so, these are strong characters with strong values. Or so I thought. I don’t know, but the affair they began just felt so out of character that it ruined the plot line for me.
“Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”
Regardless of the flaws/rambling prose, I do think this book holds a lot of value. There are many nuggets of golden advice regarding race, politics, and perseverance throughout this story that make it worth reading.