Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

I just finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and these are my thoughts, my wordy, rant-y, ranting, rambling thoughts. I apologize in advance.

The book
Americanah is the first Adichie book I’ve read, and I really liked it. I spent a long ass time on it, but it wasn’t because I didn’t like it, I did like it, it just took me a long time. It’s about Ifemelu and Obinze, a young couple in Nigeria. They meet when they are in school and they become a couple, and they are very much in love. When they are both in University Ifemelu gets into an American school, and a scholarship and goes to the States. The plan is for Obinze to follow, but in the meantime 9/11 happens and Nigerians have trouble getting into America so he becomes an illegal in England.

I thought it was fascinating. It’s part coming of age story, part immigrant story, part love story. So it’s not really the kind of book I usually read, but it was fun.

It was a really interesting look on blackness in America. Obviously I don’t have much perspective, because I’m not American, or black, but it was a fascinating read. Ifemelu is black, but that isn’t really something she thought about before coming to the States because when she lived in Nigeria everyone was black and the history was completely different. Now she has gone to a place where race is an integral part of every interaction between whites and blacks. And I thought it was an interesting thing to see, because it seemed like the white people in the States saw all blacks as the same race, or with the same background. But as Ifemelu points out, a girl from Uganda might be the daughter of a wealthy MP, who went to Oxford, while a black girl in the States probably has a grandfather who wasn’t allowed to vote or be in the same buildings and places as white people. And I liked how when Ifemelu pointed out these things to white people they became annoyed and uncomfortable with being confronted with their prejudice. Because obviously they were trying to be radical and progressive and nice and everything.

The book also centers around Ifemelu’s blog. She writes a blog on the black experience from the perspective of a Non-American Black, and a lot of the chapters close with one of her blogposts, which I thought was really interesting.

It was fascinating to read how it was to move so far away and being so cut off from your family. And I also thought it was interesting to see how Ifemelu dealt with her depression. She has this little bout with depression because she can’t get a job, she’s far away from her family and she’s sort of disappointed in her life in the States. And when her friend tries to hint that she might be depressed she brushes her off, because it’s such an American thing to be and do, diagnosing everything. And I thought that was really interesting. Ifemelu seems to come from a culture where you just keep going no matter how shit you feel, and she scoffs at America’s tendency to over diagnose life.

This seems to be a common theme; when Ifemelu’s cousin struggles with his own mental illness, while they are obviously horrified and do everything to help him, Ifemelu and her aunt also seem a bit baffled by the whole thing. There’s also derision when it comes to divorce, Obinze and Ifemelu’s friends seem to see it as something very selfish, American and simple. The idea seems to be that just because you’re not happy or in love is no reason to get a divorce when you’re married to someone convenient and stuff like that. I thought it was fascinating because obviously my reality in a Western European country is that you marry for love and if it doesn’t work you can get a divorce and it’s not the end of the world. That sounds really blasé, and I realize divorce is tough and hard and it takes a lot out of the people involved, but it seems like it was such a fundamental difference between Nigeria and the US/Europe. That it’s okay to ask for help in the States, and it’s okay to say; yes, this marriage isn’t working, so we’re going to give it up and try to make the best out of that. I’m obviously making wild assumptions and generalizations based solely on one book. But I thought it was interesting.

A lot of the characters frustrated me. So Obinze was sort of the one who was the least wobbly. He took a stance and he stayed with it. He was willing to try quite a lot to make something work, or to just succeed, which I respected him for. When Ifemelu moves to the States their plan is to stay together and make it work, which is a bit overly ambitious, but hey, they’re 18 and they want to try. When Ifemelu feels like she’s failing at just life she also feels like she can’t explain that to Obinze she just cuts him out. And I found that to be very believable, but also irresponsible and it annoyed me.

Also, Ifemelu’s American boyfriends, Jeesh. I preferred Curt, honestly. He wasn’t a great human specimen, but he was kind and he was supportive. I think that his outlook was very sweet. He came from money and seemed to feel like he could just fix anything. And it was sort of endearing. I mean he had faults, clearly, I can’t remember them, for some reason. He’s a bit… he is a little blinded by being a rich, handsome, white, straight man. And while I think he loves Ifemelu he seems to think he’s being progressive by dating her, which isn’t a great trait.

But… I really disliked Blaine. Good lord. So Blaine is Ifemelu’s second boyfriend in the States, and he’s black, and a professor at Yale. He’s very… intense. It felt like Ifemelu wasn’t allowed to be herself around him. It felt like Blaine and his friends had found the “right way” of being black in America, and if other blacks aren’t black in that way then all they deserve is Blaine’s contempt. And it fucking pissed me off. What pissed me off more was that Ifemelu saw what a jackass he was being and she just stayed with him anyway. He seemed to also feel like because Ifemelu was black and he was black they had the same experience, which isn’t accurate. And when Ifemelu wasn’t outraged by something he was outraged by then he got annoyed with her. He didn’t seem to realize that people are complex and sometimes you mess up and sometimes you do things that are problematic, and that seemed to just disappoint him so much. He seemed so disappointed with humanity, and it annoyed me. Also, he was a passive aggressive ass hat. It’s like I say, I’m a feminist, but I love Game of Thrones, and I love Glee, and Disney, even though all have very unfortunate portrayals of women. I refer to things as girly all the time. Because I’m a person! We can’t be perfect all the time. So I wasn’t a big Blaine fan. I also wasn’t a fan of Ifemelu staying with him despite knowing what an ass he was. And now I have to stop ranting.

The writing was absolutely gorgeous. I had a pen on me while I was reading, and I annotated it quite a lot. A lot like this, I rambled, because I’m me. But a lot of what I wrote was that I thought the writing was absolutely gorgeous, and I loved it. It made me so happy. It was gorgeous. I want to read more Adichie now. It’ll be fun.


This was rant-y and quite incomprehensible, which is my sweet spot. So I liked it. The prose was enchanting, I really liked the blog posts. It was sort of heart breaking. I didn’t really mention Obinze much, I think I connected more with Ifemelu. I really liked it, is the conclusion. Yeah, let’s leave it there so I don’t just keep writing forever.