Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Did you know there are almost a million international students studying in the US at any given time? Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reflects on this phenomenon by giving us Americanah. The story follows Ifemelu, an international student from Nigeria, who has to face the perils of financial insecurity, homesickness, and culture shock. The narrative remains connected to Ifemelu’s childhood in Lagos as she revisits her memories of Obinze, her high school boyfriend.
Adichie masterfully tackles Ifemelu and Obinze’s transition from “human” to “black person” as they venture through the streets of Philadelphia and London respectively. They win some, they lose some. However, they are ultimately crippled by the distance between them.
For those interested in understanding American society through the lens of an outsider, Americanah is the perfect book. One that progressively gets closer and closer to the source of American racial discourse. After thirteen years stateside, has Ifemelu become a local? Has her reluctance to fully immerse herself in the culture forced her to live in an alternate reality? Americanah is not afraid to test its characters as it continually challenges each of their belief systems. The novel talks the talk fearlessly. But more importantly, it succeeds at opening up a dialogue that has always been stuffed under the table, regardless of its pervasiveness.