Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the third novel from the acclaimed Nigerian writer.
The Americanah’s main characters Ifemelu and Obinize met while in secondary school (aka high school) in Nigeria and ended up being high school and college sweethearts. They separate when Ifemelu immigrates to the United States to attend college. Culture shock and financial challenges played major roles in shaping Ifemelu’s initial experiences which ultimately lead her to better opportunities. As she navigates through her new life in America she creates a blog from the “perspective of the non American black” which has helped her gain more opportunities and success. Without giving too much of the book away, Ifemlu’s blog content spoke about topics that are relevant and relatable, that I even tried to search to see if this “fictional” blog might really exist. Meanwhile Obinize who had a different immigration experience in England, returns to Nigeria and eventually becomes a very successful businessman.
No detail was left out when Adichie crafted Americanah, this beautifully written, funny and authentic story. It could easily be the narrative of other immigrants. Outlining the strong cultural issues, concerns and constraints, the author paints a vivid picture of the immigrant experience both the dark and intense experiences and the aspects of the experience that are funny.
The general theme of these two Nigerian immigrants reflecting on life “back home” and often compares to life in America or England. All the while experiencing the longings of what was and always feels like something is missing. The identifiable homesickness that an immigrant feels which includes holding on to the memories; pretty memories of what used to be but really it could be the desire for things to remain the same, yearning for the familiar. The desire to want things to be better back home and hope that it has the potential to be so. Ifemelu and Obinize are united in this hope for Nigeria.
Perhaps there’s a little Ifemelu and Obinize in all of us.