I devoured Americanah. The novel written by the now infamous voice from Beyonce’s “Flawless,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, is something that should be ingested and digested as soon as it touches your hands. It’s good for the soul.
The novel on its bookends is a story about two souls so clearly made for one another that it’s hard to imagine that anything could pull them apart. But it is in that pulling apart between countries and continents where the story really shines. Americanah is without a doubt a good love story—one that sucks you in and makes you want one of your own—but it is in the experiences that Ifemelu and Obinze have without one another that all of these truths about life spill out and fill its reader.
Ifemelu, smart and without filter, leaves Nigeria during her junior year of college for the States. It is, of course, the plan for Obinze to meet her there in a few years when he is granted a visa. But when does life ever work out the way one plans?
While rediscovering (and recovering) who she really is, Ifemelu finds out what it is like to be a foreigner in another country, what it means to love but it not be enough, and the difficulties of being considered black in a country that is constantly denying its race problem, causing more tension and polarization than actually finding a solution. Lucky for us—Ifemelu starts a blog called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black” clueing us in to all of her thoughts along the way.
Americanah as a whole seamlessly drifts back and forth between time and across continents as our lovers grow up without one another. The book says things out loud that even in 2014 I’ve never seen in print. It’s honest without any signs of filtration, just like its protagonist. It is Adiche’s unraveling of the unspoken token things of cultures that is so nourishing for the reader. She talks freely about “taboo” subjects like black girls and natural hair and what it’s like being in an interracial relationship without dipping into the cliché; everything she writes feels real and honest and actually experienced.
Besides just speaking plain truths about race and culture in America, Adiche’s characters cannot be denied their realness. They are relatable in the way that in each character, you could pinpoint someone in your own life who so perfectly fits their description.
Americanah is a hefty book, but reading it is more than worth it, it is a necessity.