Book Review of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ifemelu and Obinze love each other deeply, but life in military-ruled Nigeria is difficult. When Ifemelu has the opportunity to go to America, she’s reluctant, but Obinze insists she go. The two lovers maintain a long-distance romance until Ifemelu, in a desperate situation, does something that nearly breaks her. Deeply depressed, she’s filled with shame and cannot bring herself to tell Obinze, so she cuts all ties with him. Meanwhile, Obinze is having his own troubles with visas and deportations. Along the way, the two experience many trials, triumphs and epiphanies.

I was encouraged to read Americanah after seeing it on the PBS Great American Read list. I had heard so many wonderful things about it. My daughter purchased the book as a gift and I began reading right away.

I’ve seen plenty of rave reviews and I’ve seen many negative reviews too. What could I, with my Mexican/Irish background, have to contribute? The biggest thing I took away from reading Americanah is this: It made me think. It made me see through the eyes of someone with first-hand knowledge of racism and what it means to be black in America. And, the author, in my opinion, didn’t write with a heavy hand that beat readers over the head with the message. Through a varied cast of characters, readers get the gist that we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding race and each other as human beings. The key is to open our eyes and ears and listen to each other. To ask questions when we don’t understand something.

Yes, at times Ifemelu came off as selfish and a bit spoiled. Yes, she did seem to get her way a lot. Yet this didn’t sway my feelings about the book. I came away thinking that Americanah is an important piece of literature that any reader can enjoy and learn from. The author has a lovely way of writing… even when changing POV and time period, the writing was thoughtful and seamless. It’s a somewhat long book, but I was so involved in the story I finished it quickly. I’ve already grabbed another one of Ms. Adichie’s books and I’m excited to begin reading.

 

5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton