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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the award-winning author of 'Half of a Yellow Sun,' a powerful story of love, race and identity. As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face? Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, 'Americanah' is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today's globalized world.

I wasn't going to write a review for Americanah because honestly, what is there left to say?! It's truly spectacular. My only complaint was that the writing was sooooo small! It's my fault really because I'm used to reading on Kindle/iPad/Nook and making the text HUGE. Anyway, all that aside, I'll just go through a few standout points for me.

It flowed beautifully. It takes a masterful writer to navigate two points of view and flit back and forth through time and space. The characters were wonderful. I loved Ifemelu the most but I felt genuine warmth toward the majority of the supporting characters that passed through her life and Obinze's life too. I don't know the first thing about Nigeria so I really enjoyed the rich descriptions of Ifemelu's home, past and present. 

Finally, this is very much a dialogue about what it means to be black both in a predominantly black society (Nigeria has the highest concentration of black people in the world, followed by Brazil - something I learnt from one of the million different documentaries on Brazil that have been shown) and then as a minority in places like the US and the UK. I've heard that this has been a bone of contention amongst a few readers as some thought it became very preachy when really they wanted a love story. I think in parts it was supposed to be a bit preachy. Ifemelu starts a blog in the US about race and culture - most people with a blog are a little bit preachy at times, right? Especially a blog that deals with sensitive topics. Then Ifemelu decides to go natural with her hair. Now, for those of you who don't know, hair - for whatever reason - is a big deal in the black community. I would certainly recommend Chris Rock's Good Hair documentary if you want to find out more. Those of you who have bravely dipped a toe into the world of black haircare blogs and forums will laugh knowingly whilst reading this part of the novel. Ifemelu sounded A LOT like the natural hair bloggers who pretend they're not judging others for relaxing their hair but they still manage to get a few digs in here and there! At the end of the day, whilst we are growing, we all go through these stages. It is not the author's job to present us with a likeable character and a perfect love story - that would be a deservice to the craft of writing. It's our job as readers to get into the heads of thse characters and take a walk in their shoes. 

As I said in this week's Top Ten Tuesday post, if you want to gain an idea of what it is like to be a black woman in the 21st century - make that a black woman in the US because my own experience is still different to Ifemelu, Britain has its own race problems - then give this book a go. Or maybe wait until the film starring Lupita Nyong'o comes out (can't wait!). Either way, come back here and we'll talk about it! 

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