Book Review: Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah coverTitle: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
ISBN: 9780307271082
Pages: 496
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Genre:  Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Ifemelu and Obinze: Two lovers, born and raised in Nigeria, who wanted something better for themselves. While Obinze headed to the UK, Ifemelu made it to the United States, eventually becoming an academic, as well as a blogger writing about race issues in post-9/11 America. But the pull of home is too much for Ifemelu, and now, 12 years later, she’s decided to return there, wondering what she might find and whether Obinze is still waiting for her.

Snapshot Review:

A fascinating novel that provides a frank discussion about race in America, Americanah is absorbing and entertaining. Readers looking for a thought-provoking read should absolutely pick this up.

Full Review:

Americanah is a searing look at race relations in the contemporary United States. Through the lens of Ifemelu, an “outsider” African black person, and her blog, Adichie discusses many of the finer points of the problems that plague minorities, and especially blacks, today. It’s not an easy read in some respects; Adichie is spot-on in her criticisms, and readers may walk away feeling shamed because, even if they believe they don’t participate in racism, it is so inherent in the system we live in that it’s hard not to.

But Americanah is more than just taking the United States to task for how it treats its black population. It’s not very subtle (but, as Adichie points out in the novel, racism often isn’t either), but it is nuanced and layered. Adichie discusses so many aspects of the issue. The fact is that it’s hard to have a frank and real discussion about racism in the United States. Too many claim that we live in a color-blind world, which is wishful thinking at best and sheer delusion at worst (and these people are rarely, if ever, minorities). Adichie’s remarks are spot on and pitch perfect; she injects enough wit into the book such that it’s an entertaining read, funny and smart, but it never derails from her primary message. It’s incredibly well done.

Ifemelu is an interesting character in Americanah. She’s gotten used to being on the outside looking in, watching, waiting, witnessing. The situations she and Obinze find themselves in are unique and deliver razor-sharp commentary on such issues as immigration and academia. Adichie has so much to say about the post-9/11 world, from the US to the UK to Nigeria, and she does it very well. This is not a book to read if you’re looking for something effortless; Americanah will make you think from the very first page, but it’s remarkably quick given its length and will likely keep you absorbed with its tender, if unconventional, love story.

I don’t mean to say that Americanah is a perfect novel. It’s overly long; towards the end, I felt as though it was dragging. And Ifemelu’s life as a blogger (and specifically her rise to fame) was interesting but unrealistic. But my issues with it seem to pale in comparison to a simple fact: it is a thoughtful, entertaining, and witty novel that, for once, has a serious and deep discussion of race issues, and gets them right every single time.

Other books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

Purple Hibiscus

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