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.