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