Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a writer that really shouldn’t be up my ally, but I thoroughly enjoy here books, and her most recent novel, Americanah, while quite uneven (and sporting a terrible cover), is one of the best and most unique takes on the immigrant lifestyle that I have ever read. Adichie writes without the myopic view that some novels and stories like these tend to suffer from. Not only does she describe different experiences that homegrown Americans are not familiar with, but she does so in a way that expresses the differences in customs, but makes the feelings that come with those differences are quite universal. We have all experienced the kind of embarrassment and dread that accompanies the revelation that we have a different perspective than the majority. It is painful, annoying and heartbreaking at times. And Adichie’s characters experience all of this when they must explain their lives to curious onlookers. So the experience might be different, the overall feeling Adichie conveys here is something that everyone goes through. The novel follows a two Nigerian people, who leave their homeland in search for a better life. Ifemelu, a self-confident woman, goes to America to study, and Obinze, a soft-spoken son of a professor, moves to England illegally when he cannot join Ifemelu in America. Over the next decade, the weight of race, and the hostility and barriers that come with, make their journey back to one another, quite difficult. Ifemelu starts a popular blog (not as good as this oneJ) to record her observations and it becomes both a crutch and safe haven when problems encroach on her. Obinze starts to work under a false name, with predictable consequences. When I say that this book is uneven, I mean that this is really Ifemelu’s story. It is the more interesting one, and is given more pages to develop. Hearing about what she thinks of race and the way America has an unmentioned code of hostility toward different cultures is fascinating, even if I do not really agree with it all the time. What Obinze’s story lacks is made up for near the end, when Ifemelu, now back in Nigeria, must deal with being a returned immigrant, and dealing with a homeland she is confused by. While it is imbalanced, this novel is very much worth your time. Never has hair care been more interesting.
Rating: 4/5           

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