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Americanah by Adichie

Jan 18, 2015

Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie_0Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie begins with Ifemulu’s journey to get her hair braided, navigating the African Diaspora in New Jersey. It’s an extended metaphor for finding one’s way in the world.

Ifemulu and Obinze are lovers in Lagos, members of the lower middle class who meet in college and take very different paths. Ifemulu moves to the U.S. and her story plays out in Philadelphia and Baltimore and the suburbs of Massachusetts; Princeton and Yale are her touchstones as she blogs—with increasing success and fame—about race in America from the perspective of the black female immigrant. Obinze journeys to the U.K. without much success, then returns to Lagos where he becomes a power player.

When the two cross paths again their relationship re-ignites.

Nigerian English is as exuberant and nuanced a dialect as its home city, the vibrant, multi-tiered, problematic city of Lagos.  Americanah is a window into the dynamic society of southern Nigeria as well as a portrait of America as experienced by a young African woman. Adichie creates memorable characters (with the possible exception of an insipid, rich, white boyfriend for Ifemulu) who are insightful, political, creative and charming (as well as grasping, befuddled, buffeted and brave), and provide a global perspective on what it means to be black in today’s world.

 

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Mel Malmberg is currently working on her first book of fiction; a novel about young Will Shakespeare. Find Mel on Twitter at TheDailyBard@365shakespeare.

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