Known for her commentary on feminism during a break in Beyonce’s single “***Flawless,” novelist and fashion lover Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest novel provides a mountain-top view of many worlds. Among other accolades, her third published novel Americanah was selected by the New York Times as one of the “10 Best Books of 2013.”
Adichie’s experiences and Nigerian upbringing push through in her storytelling with a modesty that I found relatable and at times humorous. Offering attributes of a well-rounded tale of immigration and love entwined with what I suspect may be a touch of creative nonfiction, Americanah flutters between political perils and an undying romance.
The two main characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, meet and fall in love during their young lives in Nigeria. Eventually, it is this romantic plot that fuels Ifemelu to reevaluate her new life in America before she decides to return home. Obinze, left with many unanswered questions after Ifemelu moves to America, faces trying times as he tries to establish himself as a man. The author goes on quite candidly, releasing the characters’ story lines with a settled balance while interjecting each character’s point of view.
To introduce the tone of the novel, the story begins with Ifemelu’s visit to an African braiding shop in Trenton, NJ. Immediately, some readers will be transported to a familiar setting described so vividly by the author: weathered posters of braid styles hanging in the window, a broken A/C, women braiding with their children securely wrapped around their bodies. It is here that Ifemelu (an observer of people and things) battles with her intent to return home to Nigeria or continue her new life of thirteen years in America.
The juxtaposition of Ifemelu’s character and that of the African braiders becomes apparent during these reoccurring scenes which symbolize her re-migration back home. She craves the familiar although she fears she will no longer find it so comforting.
Americanah is a whiteboard of racial and cultural ideals punctuated by balanced characters and undeniable truth. This rich cocktail offers nourishment to readers who hunger for a healthy plot, and also offers a glimpse into the reality of some “non-American Blacks.” Sprinkled with cleverly lain observations, not-so politically correct revelations, and a passion that is the human experience, readers and writers alike will not be disappointed with Adichie’s latest.