Saturday, April 18, 2015

Americanah, May Book

NPR's Jennifer Reese calls "Americanah" a "rich and gloriously detailed tapestry ... hung on the sturdy scaffolding of a sweet love story." Those glorious details are Adichie's insightful observations of the human social condition. They abound throughout the story.

In "Americanah",  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tackles the question, "What is the difference between an African-American and an American-African?" She was born in Nigeria where she wasn't aware that she was black; not until she emigrated to the United States.

An example of the fine differentiations she succeeds in communicating to American readers: 
In college, the African-American joins the Black Student Union, while the American-African signs up with the African Students Association.  When thinking of race and class, Americans instinctively speak of “blacks and poor whites,” not “poor blacks and poor whites.”
“Americanah” tells the story of a smart, strong-willed Nigerian woman named Ifemelu who, after she leaves Africa for America, endures several harrowing years of near destitution before graduating from college, starting a blog entitled “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-­American Black” and winning a fellowship at Princet­on. Her high school boyfriend, Obinze, remains in Nigeria after an unsuccessful attempt to emigrate. He becomes a successful businessman. A complicated, long distance relationshiop ensues.

Leah Gessner

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