Americanah is a novel written by Chimamanda Adichie, published in May 2013. The book has won the Heartland Prize, the U.S. National Book Critic Circle Award, has been selected as one of the ten best books of 2013 by the New York Time Book Review and was nominated for the Baileys Women Prize for Fiction in 2014. The author is listed as one of the twenty best authors under 40.
Americanah is Chimamanda’s third novel, a love story of two childhood sweethearts and their sojourn in foreign lands. Set in the years of Nigerian military rule, Ifemelu a highly opinionated young girl is given an opportunity to travel for postgraduate studies by her Auntie Uju, a mistress of a general, after which she suffers depression. Fuelled by self loathing after a weird encounter, she severs all ties with Obinze. This rejection marked the beginning of Obinze’s journey.
With a twist of fate post 911, her lover Obinze seeks a similar path in Britain but is unable to work legally there and resorts to cleaning toilets. Ifemelu suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses friendships. She starts a blog and documents her experiences, becomes quite popular and makes a bit of money. She however decides to take up a job back in Nigeria which turns out horribly and her Obinze is now a wealthy man, very much married with a kid.
The challenges of race and identity are brought to the light, as are the pressures of emigration and fitting in. Americanah addresses the similar problems black Africans face because of the assumption of a lack of English comprehension.
The novel is written in a flashback style taking us back and forth through the narratives of the main characters in different times of their lives. It reads like a biography of the illusionized American dream; the misconceptions and identity crisis. The author was able to weave all these stories and merge them into this wonderful book.
Hair! Hair choice is a major topic raised in the book; the choice to keep natural nappy curls or apply toxic chemicals. Interracial dating was also one of the themes.
It is a fantastic read laced with humour though I found the ending a bit of an anti-climax.
The film rights to the book have been optioned by the Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Go get a copy and look out for the word ‘Ceiling’ and the question “Can you call your boss, mummy?”