My Thoughts on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My Thoughts on Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie

By Veronica Nkwocha

Ifemelu drifts into a world where people like her; African, not of the poster with the forlorn child are a bye line. She seeps into a world where the dominant images are of the western world, shiny and set apart and straddles her own world, a colossus even though they do not know it. To the outside she is a mere shadow, her light barely flickering. They enter her world and see through her eyes; the author’s narrative allows a prime spot, a vantage one and they become one with her. The World, a fragmented puzzle is put together and is seen from a different perspective; one gains a greater understanding and for that, we are richer as humans.

And so we move on and see one who would otherwise be a mere statistic. But far from being idealised, if she who was wordless and unseen becomes a face, we must see her for who she is; warts and all. She is a hard worker and battles the odds to become a Fellow at Princeton. She also uses the new invention,’the weblog’ to blog about issues thereby allowing a conversation on race by the protagonists. But she is not perfect; she is charming and can be a straight talker if need be but she comes across sometimes as a bit selfish. Maybe not more so than most humans are but it is a god with clay feet situation, the halo wearing saviour who inserts herself as a legitimate person in Today’s narrative. She has friends with whom she laughs but one doesn’t sense much of an affection from her. They do things for her but others, save her parents are rarely at the receiving end of her charity even when she becomes able. The walls she built to keep Obinze out were swift and impenetrable, although one can understand that the trauma of her experience with the coach blighted the innocence of their once perfect relationship.

She appears utterly consumed throughout the text by her own introspection. It would appear she went through the motions of living, hiding her real self and stoically holding on to an invisible camera with which she viewed life and ultimately ‘the other’ without immersing herself in their own feelings and emotions. Even with her American boyfriends she looked to be perching on the edge ready for flight. The only redemption is her unfailing love for Dike where she is laid bare and vulnerable; not even for Obinze which the reader had been teased and lured seductively with the promise of a great love story.

By the time one thundered through the captivating read, expectant, there was a mild concern that the few pages left for the reunion with Obinze would not be enough to do justice to their story. Kosi’s demonization as is wont in romance novels, typically presented in order for the reader to accept a triumphant reunion of the estranged couple is tepid and a tad unbelievable; she did not read! Sitting at the periphery of the pontificating literature enthusiasts, one almost pities her. She also did not stir with indignation at her husband’s sexual ‘acrobatics’ with his ex, even though at the start of the book she seemed obsessed with him. One would have expected a hint of jealousy, some tears; it was a shock to see her practical, coldly proffering that the marriage should not end despite the infidelity.

Ifemelu’s entire lack of empathy for his family even in passing, especially towards his daughter presented her as cold and calculating in a way that seemed removed from the character we got to know from the start. Was it a defence mechanism? There was no hand wringing considering how she looked down her nose at those who dated married men. To her, his family barely existed or were akin to weed in her perfectly groomed garden of love starring Obinze. Even that did not appear quite distinguished from her relationships with her exes save for their shared tender flowering as teenagers; she still appeared in her renewed relationship with Obinze, perched at the outside, looking in, prepared for flight.

16 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. Wow, you captured my thoughts exactly. Honestly, I don’t think I would have been able to put them down this well. Amazing how Chimamanda was able to induce these same thoughts in all her readers.
    Just a suggestion though, I think you should include *Spoiler Alert* in your title, for the sake of those who are yet to read the book (but want to), I see you made an effort not to give away too much but someone like me would still have thought this was ‘too’ much. I guess it’s just me, lol.

  2. I came here from Myne Whitman’s blog just to ready your review. I understood it because I am a literature student and I have read the book, but to a lay man, it seems like an essay full of flamboyant grammar just to sound enlightened and learned. Please tone down on the use of English and also the twists and turns that are supposedly expected from a review. Simple English and straight to the point would have been more than enough. You don’t get points for how you can twist the English Language really.

    Not to spoil your effort, I also have the same idea of the character as yours. As an African woman who believes so much in marriage and family and not just “love”, I think she came across as selfish, self righteous and very cold. I didn’t know what Chimamanda was trying to pass across with that. It was like in hollywood movies where a woman or man leaves her/his lover at the altar only to go back to an ex or someone previously met because of a so called love or faith. Furthermore, being a Nigerian in Nigeria and not being confronted with the reality of my skin colour, I really could not identify with the reality of her life in America. That is really not my reality as I live in Nigeria but I am not ignorant of the fact that this happens in the outside world.

    Hope you don’t take offence for my criticism. I am just a fan of the use of simple grammar in expression because it cuts across to all audience and not just literature people. Thanks

    • Thanks for reading, the feedback and criticism, it helps one produce better quality work. I wrote this off the cuff, not with an audience in mind at first; I suppose that’s why it comes across that way and may be why I was a tad skeptical about titling it a proper review. It’s also my first essayed reflection of any novel so do bear with me.

      • I am not a fan of simple grammar. Somehow, i am tired of all this simple grammar stuff. If care is not taken, it could ruin and strangulate someone’s unique style. Let everyone stick to their own unique style. Soyinka, Achebe, Chimamanda, etc do not write simple grammar and they are amongst the top pantheon of literary excellence.

  3. So so sorry, that actually reads ‘Thanks for reading…’ lol. How do I move that icon/gravatar covering the first words of all the comments, does anyone know?

    • Thanks Ibifiri, I also love the book. I agree that there are people that are cold like that and I believe it’s an author’s job to be true to life. There are no perfect people. My concern was she seemed to be acting out of character, a bit different from the effervescent but careful lady we were introduced to through out the novel. She was ever so pragmatic but cold was not a word I would associate with her until her handling the re-union. A hint of reflection would have been more in-line with the Ifemelu we got to know.

  4. One does not expect to come upon gold on literary pages or cyberspace but i just happened on a gold mine. Your writing is delectable! I just could not stand Ifemelu, she was just too selfish. However, i loved Obinze but i was so disappointed that he left all for a selfish lady like Ifemelu. Marriage is about commitment! I hated the ending of the book but i was so sad when it came to an end. It was such a beautiful book.

  5. By the way, you share something in common with her. Both of ya are Olympians, literary goddesses. Expect me paying homage a lot to your twitter and blog temples. I was converted yesterday!!!!

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