Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Happy New Year!

I failed miserably in hitting a reading goal in 2018. Now I’m off to an even worse start in 2019. Just this one book after almost a full month. I am going to try to read more this year. It’s not really a resolution because I don’t like failing, but I’ll try to put in a little more effort than usual.

2019 is off to a great start. I kicked off the new year in Alaska visiting my brother and having the best time you can possibly hope to have with 5 hours of sunlight. I went dog sledding. I waved to Sarah Palin’s house. I spent Jan 1 pleading with the powers that be to just let me die and not go through the pain that is a wine hangover. But seriously, best vacation in a while. Some beautiful photos (that still don’t do the state justice) are to the right of this page on my Instagram.

I guess it’s time to talk about the book now. Overall, I enjoyed Americanah. This is the first fictional novel I have read in a while, the last 8/10 books have been nonfiction. It was a nice change of pace.

I will fully admit that the majority of the books I read have main characters that look like me. White. Middle class. It’s relatable. It’s a trap I need to get away from. I do the same with movies. It’s embarrassing to admit, how can I be a progressive liberal when I refuse to see the world through different eyes?

Americanah proves that you do not need to relate directly to a character to feel sympathy, compassion, and understanding. This story follows the life of Ifemelu. She is from Nigeria and immigrated to the United States to attend school in PA. She describes the racism and implicit biases that Black people face in America. The author relates this to the reader, but you also read snippets from Ifemelu herself through her blog posts. It is a fictional story set in our very real world (even Obama is mentioned!) and the injustices she describes are all too frequent in America today.

I knew very little about this story before I started reading. I knew that it won tons of awards and made it onto a New York Times list of Best books of 2013. I also read that it was a love story, but for the majority of the novel, it felt far more focused on race. However, with the last 100 or so pages, Americanah turned into a story about love. I know, gag. I have never and will never read one of those Nicholas Sparks or other authors’ sappy love stories. Happy ending, yada yada. For the most part, this was not one of those stories. This was far more real. Perhaps unsettlingly real for some people.

The novel primarily focuses on Ifemelu, but there is always some background noise surrounding her old boyfriend from Nigeria, Obinze. When Ifemelu moves to America, she has a bad experience that results in her ignoring Obinze until he moves on with his life. He ultimately marries and has a child, but through both of their stories, you know that they still think about one another.

I won’t spoil the ending, but she does go back to Nigeria eventually. There is a sense of “happily ever after” at the end that felt forced and unrealistic. I felt that the ending was quite anticlimactic after the intense amount of build-up.

[SPOILER] Okay, I lied, I will spoil the ending. Sorry. He cheats on his wife and ultimately chooses Ifemelu. As a reader, I didn’t need that ending, I didn’t want that ending. After the entire novel felt so real, that felt like cheap icing on an otherwise terrific cake. I would have preferred to have the “love story” be the secondary theme and not be forced to the forefront in the final chapters to override the more serious conversation about race. I’m not trying to be pretentious here (it just comes so naturally), but I want to be forced to really think after I finish a book. Be it fiction or nonfiction, I think all books can make you think and this book did an excellent job until the very end. I digress, it was an enjoyable read and it had some very eye-opening moments regarding race in America.

 

I’m excited to go back to nonfiction for a bit with some of the books my parents bought me for Christmas. And hopefully it will be under a month before I post again! 🙂

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