Americanah
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Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a powerful new novel-her first in seven years: a story of love and race centred around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?

Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, ‘Americanah' is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world.

Review

You can’t write an honest novel about race in America, it needs to be Proustian, meditative and watery, so that those who read it don’t know it’s about race at all … or at least so says one of Adichie’s more invidious characters in Americanah.

Ifemelu is from Nigeria and, after over a decade in America, is considering moving home. A poor immigrant done well, she runs a famous blog for non-American blacks, and, as the blog gains momentum, the chapters are punctuated with excerpts from her online trove of populist wit and vitriol. She’s sexy, sassy and classy, but also confused and lonely. Something remains amiss. Eventually, a tale unravels of her sweetheart, Obinze, and the ache of growing alongside failed ambitions, shame and guilt. Nigeria is in flux. Dictators and coups come and go, but the ‘ominous lethargy of choicelessness’ continues.

Of course, people change once they leave home, as does their understanding of the globe and their place in it. This mental and emotional distance between the developed and developing worlds is captured beautifully here. Australians and Brits will relish the digs at American hubris and ignorance, and, be warned: page 235 will divide and enrage book clubs across the globe.

This novel will drive an acerbic arrow through the hearts and minds of WASPs everywhere. An epic love story across continents and decades, Americanah hides nothing about the desperation that simmers beneath unrealised dreams and a yearning for belonging.


Luke May is a freelance writer.

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