Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is my second book of my Read the World project and actually the book that sparked my interest in reading broadly across the world. I read Purple Hibiscus about ten years ago (a lot of it went over my head, I imagine) but that made me realise that as an adult I’m not reading as broadly as I did when I was a young teen. Which is probably the opposite of what it should be.

In any case, Americanah came highly recommended and I absolutely loved it. It spans several years, three countries and two main characters; Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love in Nigeria as teenagers, but events take Ifemelu to American academia and Obinze to undocumented life in Britain. 

Race plays a central part in the book as a whole. Ifemelu ‘discovers’ race in America (it not being a major concern of her life in Nigeria) and writes a successful blog from the perspective of a non-American black woman. Both her and Obinze deal with racism on both their paths; the micro-aggressions of well-meaning white people; distrust of immigrants; fetishising; shock that a black person in America might be successful; assumptions that all people of colour are a monolith. The list goes beyond that, but to note every single issue of racism or prejudice I saw brought up within the story would be likely be horribly inaccurate because they’re not my experiences. I can only get a brief glimpse in to what life must be like got these characters, and the real life stories that they reflect. I’d say it’s an uncomfortable read, but that doesn’t mean it’s not incredible, but that it showed me a lot of the internalised, institutionalised prejudices in the society I live in reflected back at me from someone else’s point of view.

It’s been a while since I read something with this level of scope; that sort of epic plot that takes place over years rather than a few months. I definitely have a newfound taste for them though!


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