Best known for Orange Prize winning fiction Half of a Yellow Sun, CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE ’s new novel stays true to her Nigerian origins. She says she can only write about what she knows and she knows what it feels like to be black in America. Her story is basically a (long) love story between the heroine Ifemelu (Ifem for short) and her high school boy friend Obinze. While Ifem eventually ends up in the States, Obinze arrives in London. Both are graduates from Nigeria, both from educated families who as would slap their kids if they went out of the house without shoes! But the gritty reality of surviving without official papers at first means they both sink to levels way beneath their qualifications; Ifem ends up being a nanny for a white American family for a while and Obinze works in a dingy factory to try and attain that elusive Western success.
Eventually their paths cross again back in a new Nigeria which sounds a bit like Dubai but with fewer shopping malls ! Property has boomed and so have Range Rover sales, we are even told that rent has to be paid for not one year in advance but two ! And so Ifem joins an exclusive Nigerian expat club where people chat about places to eat that prepare food just they would back in America or London! She is called an Americanah now, a Nigerian expat and she has changed but still retains strong elements of her Nigerian culture. She writes a blog about how she felt while in America and the book is liberally sprinkled with her posts that also form part of the plot line. She talks about the distinct kink of black hair that make it authentically African and questions why celebrities like Michelle Obama or Beyonce favour the straight (relaxed) hair styles that sound tortuous and temporary.
The book will resonate with many expats who have now made Dubai their home and feel they too have changed. Chimamanda’s observations on race got me thinking about doing a blog on how many of the nationalities here in Dubai are perceived but Dubai isn’t America, yet! The book is a great read, informative, entertaining and witty, easily readable but it’s not light. It would make a great book club book despite it being 477 pages.
Let me know if this book sounds like a good read to you and as usual do your sharing thing with other book lovers everywhere. Thanks, Monica.
- Race-in-America Is a Central Character in ‘Americanah’ (Review) (popmatters.com)