Review: Americanah

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Publication: 05/2013

Rating: 5 STARS

Fiction | 589 Pages | Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Amazon | Goodreads

Mini Review: A modern literary marvel that speaks unabashedly about race and gender. One of the finest works of this decade. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is quickly becoming one of the most formidable literary forces in the English-speaking world. Her most recent novel, “Americanah,” offers an impressively ambitious scope that covers several subjects and covers them expertly. It is a novel about what it means to be black, about immigration, dislocation, and isolation, a social satire on contemporary American life, a love story and so much more.

The narrative transports us through multiple generations of Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s lives in Nigeria and abroad while slowly immersing us in their complicated and fascinating lives. Ifemelu is perceptive, beautiful, strong, fragile, ambitious, flippant, somber, austere, fiery, passionate, feminine, deceitful, sensual, intelligent, playful and kind. Obinze is equally contradictory yet human. Their love story spans generations and by book’s end was simultaneously underwhelming, yet realistic and spiritually satisfying because they are as close as two people can be to the nebulous concept of “soul mates.”

“Americanah” opens with Ifemelu in Princeton, New Jersey markedly unhappy with the fact that she must travel to a different town to braid her hair. When we meet her, she has already lived in America for thirteen years and has created a good life for herself, after a painfully disappointing start. Her finest accomplishment is her unusually-titled blog, “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.” Throughout the novel, we get thrilling glimpses into this blog that has made Ifemelu a minor celebrity. What she writes are ruthlessly honest remarks about what it means to be black in the 21st century.

Here’s an excerpt of the blog post, “Traveling While Black.”

A friend of a friend, a cool AB (American Black) with tons of money, is writing a book called Traveling While Black. Not just black, he says, but recognizably black because there’s all kids of black and no offense but he doesn’t mean those black folk who look Puerto Rican or Brazilian or whatever, he means recognizably black. Because the world treats you differently…They tell you in the guidebooks what to expect if you’re gay or if you’re a woman. Hell, they need to do it for if you’re recognizably black. Let traveling black folk know what the deal is.

Many of these posts are controversial, but poignant, insightful, and excellent for real-world group discussions. I found the blog posts to be highlights of the novel due to their relevant proclamation for the need to be unapologetically black in a society that continues to balk at bold displays of such an identity. (Shall we discuss the conservative response to Beyonce’s Superbowl performance? Perhaps another time…)

It’s a challenge to accurately capture the scope and complexity of this novel, but don’t let my failure to do so discourage you from reading “Americanah.” Rest assured, this is a near-flawless novel that speaks truths about which others choose to remain silent. If you have never read a story that is fearless in its approach to issues of race in America and Africa, you will learn immensely as I have. Adichie has undeniably crafted an instant classic that will be studied in college classrooms, and will remain relevant, for generations to come.

14 thoughts on “Review: Americanah

  1. Hi there! I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! For more information just go to the post on my page. I love what you’re doing on your blog 🙂

  2. Thank you for this extensive review. ‘Americanah’ was my first Adichie book, and I loved it. I loved Ifemelu, and Obinze so much. They were free-spirited, and unapologetically themselves right? And, their romance didn’t make me squirm. Generally, romance doesn’t agree with me. But, I loved that pair. 🙂

  3. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time now, but you know how it is… Good to know you loved it! I do own Half of a Yellow Sun, so unless I get a copy of Americanah somewhere, I will probably get to Yellow Sun first. I hear that one’s good, too!

  4. Yes! Her TED talk is what I first saw, and then started hearing about AMERICANAH… got an ecopy…. so very much in there! To think about, to talk about, to cite, to carry with you in your head and heart!

    1. I only have her debut novel to read and then I will had read all of her major published works. I cannot wait for her a new novel release because I’m such a huge fan now and I will love everything she does, I’m sure!

      It’s difficult for me to decide which of her books is better, Americanah or Half of a Yellow Sun. She’s incredible!

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