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Americanah Book Review

Americanah Book Review 


Chimamanda Adichie’s most recent book. I just finished it and I feel so empty. I loved this book like I LOVED this book. I am not one of the Chimamanda stans who thinks she walks on water and is some demi god. At all. I only just read Half of a Yellow Sun late last year and I know I read Purple Hibiscus but I can’t remember it. I also liked her collection of short stories The Thing Around Your Neck.

Where do I start with this book? I didn’t read any reviews about it before I started and I didn’t even know what it was about. Basically, it seemed like Chimamanda had a lot to get off her chest about being an immigrant and being black overseas (The U.S and UK specifically). She found a brilliant way to express these thoughts with a plot about two lovers, their beginning and their in between from Nigeria to the U.S to the UK all the while touching on sensitive topics – racism and immigrant living.

The realness of this book was too much. Like it was just honest, no bobbing and weaving and trying to be politically correct. Even I, who isn’t so political took a second to ponder about the topics discussed. I didn’t feel like I was being yelled at as I often do in some write ups. I will say I shrunk a little at the topic of natural hair, cuz it came up a lot. My thought process when it came up was more “haba, it’s not by force let’s not be extreme”. If you can’t tell by now, I am trying hard not to give anything away. If you were an immigrant who came to this country alone, trying to adjust to the huge culture shock, wondering how you would pay your fees or bills or wondered about your status you will so relate to this book. Even if you didn’t go through this, Adichie’s recounting of characters in high school was so nostalgic for me because it was so apt. The simplest things, in one chapter she goes to braid her hair and chooses color 4 and the braider tells her “no, it’s a dirty color”. I laughed so loud at that because that has happened to me verbatim. Just her description of the braiding place alone you will find yourself saying “yes! so true!”. Even the description of a returnee, was so apt. How those of us who have lived away for so long suddenly feel so superior and how places you knew like the back of your hand are suddenly so strange… I need to stop gushing and just type.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to everyone. My one not quite a gripe was, I kept trying to place what time period/year she was writing about and had to do it by the events mentioned. All through, I could envision most Nigerians relating to this book, I kept wondering and wishing I could be in a Non Nigerian’s head and see how they would receive the book with the Pidgin English, Igbo and Nigerian slangs that were thrown in there. I remember reading Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her” and he, like Adichie had a bunch of cultural mentions and Spanish that I didn’t quite relate to and I probably wouldn’t see the same way a Dominican would, reading it. I have to say I didn’t like how the book ended, I wish it were more closed ended and conclusive than as open ended as it was, it just seemed abrupt kinda like Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” (which made me so angry! grr) I am in awe of the way she wrote in this book, she seamlessly changed “voices” while going through the various groups/countries/situations just as we often do when we, Nigerians are with our people vs work people. She must have done a heck of a lot of research because everything was so so apt and I wondered how much of it was auto biographical? hmm. I love how Adichie wears her Nigerian-ness with pride and you can tell by the Igbo names she gives her characters. They are never the typical Igbo names. Just lovely, deep, hmm haventheardthatbefore names. So many quotables but I would be here all night if I typed them, but the two I remember:

“Her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out”

“Many of us didn’t marry the woman we truly loved, we married the woman who was around when we were ready to marry”

I really wish I could have an Americanah round table at my house and just discuss this book for hours. But anywaysssss, go get this book, read it and come back and tell me what you thought of it. Happy Reading!

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  1. Original Mgbeke

    You hardly ever gush and you are gushing about this?? Now my curiosity is doubled. It will be my post-exam read, confirmed! Great review, you def piqued my curiosity without giving too much away.

  2. Omagus

    “I kept wondering and wishing I could be in a Non American’s head and see how they would receive the book with the Pidgin English”

    Do you mean “non-Nigerian?”

    I haven’t read any of her previous books. But NPR reviewed this one and the reviewer LOVES it. I’m pretty intrigued to read it myself.

  3. Lari

    I’m so glad you wrote this review! I waited until I finished it before reading your take on it. .good job with not including spoilers lol. I feel that the character voices were SO well written from several points of view that I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. As a non-Nigerian that has traveled to Nigeria, I feel that I got the best of both worlds with this book. I know some references will definitely be lost in translation for American readers, but most references can be understood by the context it was written in without confusing readers. I will say that Adichie’s characters were realistic and true to my observations from visits to Lagos. The struggle of seeking citizenship, culture shock, and just existing in a relationship were highlighted brilliantly. I did feel that some of the Obama references and natural hair mentions were out of place and overly emphasized. Overall, it was a great read.. I won’t be a spoiler, but I agree with you about wishing the ending was more concrete! (sigh) Good read nonetheless.

  4. Chacha

    Just finished reading this and your review is everything that’s in my head right now.

  5. mss sassy

    First off i’m a Chimamanda stan so i had to get the book and finish reading before too many reviews were out.
    I actually had to “mise” this book because i didn’t want it to end. I laughed, i cried, like real tears in some parts. I like that she was able to talk about so many things in the book, from natural hair to mental health. I saw me in Ifemelu, the way she described the whole returnee in Lagos life was so apt and hilarious at the same time. 
    I kinda like how it ended, she kinda let you paint your own final picture in your head.
    Raved about it to my friend and gave her my copy after i’d finished but she didn’t like it because it brought up too many emotions she’d rather not deal with.
    That’s how real the book was.
    Would definitely recommend to anybody but my recommendation would be mostly gushy.
    So yea, good review.

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