Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Americanah

It will be over far too soon – my love affair with Ifemulu, the young Nigerian woman presented by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie growing up in Africa and coming to America. Those are large terms – America, Africa. Adichie distills them through Ifemulu’s experience into small, daily details we can understand. And she pours honey all over it in her latest book, Americanah.

Ifemulu’s life is enchanted. She is beautiful, intelligent, and witty. When she is with a man, he is the best one around, black or white. When she comes to America, she has an auntie to stay with, one who is studying to be a doctor. Although she initially struggles to find a job, when she does find one, it is ideal.

Ifemulu’s largest discovery in America is that she is Black. A journalist by education, she begins a blog. One of the first entries is titled “Understanding America for the Non-American Black: American Tribalism.” Her voice contains none of the anger and struggle of American Blacks so earnestness isn’t required. Her writing is as disarming as she is and features short, piquant observations of how race figures into American life, black with black, black with white, white with black.

Occasionally Adichie switches to the life of Obintze, the childhood sweetheart Ifemulu left behind in Nigeria. Obintze goes to England and observes not so much the English people as his Nigerian friends in England. Adept at showing depth of experience and feeling in a few intimate events, Adichie follows Obintze’s struggle to find work, struggle to understand why his Nigerian friends consider themselves Brits, and struggle to avoid deportation, one he eventually loses.

Moving easily forward and back in time, continent to continent, Ifemulu to Obintze, Adichie maintains a sound story, providing the security of foreshadowing with enough surprise to delight the reader. I don’t want this book to end and I can’t wait to find another by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

~ Guest review by Wyma Rogers

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