Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Reviewed by Katie Presley
We here at BookPeople were beside ourselves to welcome Ann Patchett to the store earlier this year, as we adore her as not only a favorite author but also a fellow independent bookseller. While she was here, Ann shared with us (and her packed audience) a list of her favorite books of 2013. One of her picks also landed on our top ten list: Americanah, the tour de force third novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Americanah functions as many things, which is part of why it is such a remarkable accomplishment. It’s a novel, telling the story of two young Nigerians making their lives under drastically different (and yet fundamentally similar) ways abroad. But it’s also a powerful polemic on race, particularly race in the United States; it’s a book to start discussions; a tool; a reading assignment for Americans who believe this country (or any country) is “post-racial.”
Adichie uses the blog of her professional writer protagonist, Ifemelu, to make powerful, concise summations of the myriad differences in approach to race, ethnicity, gender, and beauty in Nigeria and the United States. Ifemelu’s blog posts, which form narrative breaks (and reveal the heart of Americanah), are by turn irreverent, funny, razor-sharp, emotional, and educational, on topics ranging from advice on growing an Afro to the ways she is treated as a black African woman dating a white American man. It’s a powerful statement about the way we process information in the digital age – Ifemelu’s life is available for public comment, even as she leaves her friends, lovers, and family in Nigeria in the dark about her new life. She filters her observations through a lens of the public eye, weighing every conversation as potential blog material. It’s that meta-awareness that makes Americanah feel like much more than a novel. There’s no escapism to this story – nothing that feels like fiction. The politics are current, the cultural references are timely, the neighborhoods and residents and topics of conversation are instantly recognizable. Adichie has done something more than write a realistic novel – she’s written a State of the Union address. Americanah shows us the world exactly as it is, and dares us to talk about it.
Americanah is now available in paperback on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. We ship all over the world.