Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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.