Book Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda’s excellent vocabulary and brilliance shine through in this novel in a way that will have a lasting impact on the reader. She writes with such a conviction and uses the right tone, prose and witty descriptions that will have you laughing out loud.

What is the story about? 

A young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, immigrates to the United States to further her education. Throughout the novel, we dart in and out of Ifemelu’s life in Nigeria and the United States. The book also delves into her love story with Obinze, her high school boyfriend, in Nigeria.   

What I liked the most

The author has done a terrific job of portraying Ifemelu as an observant character who has a well-rounded view of the world.  Ifemelu’s tribulations and victories meticulously described her feelings of settling in the states. I felt as if I was right there with Ifemelu as I read.

The contrast of the two main characters experiences brings a healthy balance to the whole story. For example, whilst Ifemelu’s rich boyfriend in America helped her secure a job after graduating, Obinze lived a rather harsh undocumented life in the UK.

Below are a few of the things that made me fall in love with the plot:

  • Colourful and witty descriptions as Ifemelu dashes in and out of her Nigerian and American experience.
  • Nigerian ideologies thoroughly challenged throughout the novel.
  • The love story between Ifemelu and Obinze is not cliché. 

What I didn’t like so much

Americanah is an incredibly long read! It took me several months to finish reading it, simply because I had other things I was reading, and this made me feel so anxious because I kept trying to set myself a read by time and date and that just didn’t work.

Themes explored throughout the story

  • The pressure to conform to western standards, e.g. when Ifemelu deliberately changes her accent to an American one to fit in. 
  • The African-American vs African immigrant perspective on what it means to be black in the states.
  • The flawed Nigerian education system (mainly the numerous strikes) was why Ifemelu went to study in the states.
  • The ignorance that some people in western society seem to have about what it is like to live in African countries.
  • The plight that thousands of Nigerian immigrants’ face upon overstaying their visa. 
  • Cultural criticism of Nigerian corruption and materialism (e.g. the concept of young girls relying on old rich men to pay their way through life). 
  • American and English deep-rooted cultural issues were also referenced through crucial moments of the novel. For example, Ifemelu experienced anxiety and depression when she was in America. In England, Obinze dealt with a society that was afraid of immigrant asylum seekers. 
  • Throughout the novel, we are taken on a journey of Ifemelu’s self-discovery from her experiences as a young girl to a self-assured woman who is not afraid to stand out, call people out when they are wrong and own up to her faults.

Who should read this book? 

  • Any deep thinker would love reading this book – the inner turmoil that Ifemelu experiences at crucial moments of the book are relatable.  
  • People who are planning to move to America or to the UK, from an African country.
  • People who want to educate themselves about racism which thousands of African Americans face every day.

How many stars will I give Americana?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. This is a brilliant review, Ibukun.
    “Cultural criticism of Nigerian corruption and materialism (e.g. the concept of young girls relying on old rich men to pay their way through life).” Fantastic theme
    Recently, there was a weird trend that flooded Nigeria’s social media. A lot of folks especially ladies were comparing sugar daddies to boyfriends. I wondered if these ladies don’t have other men in their lives, or other means of financial support. Most of their comparisons were nauseating and demeaning.
    I hope this changes someday.

    1. Thanks, I am glad you liked it. Yes this book highlighted alot of things about ladies chasing after sugar daddies. It’s sad that it’s still happening today. I also hope it comes to an end soon

  2. I haven’t read Americanah yet, but I really like the sound of it – especially looking at the perspectives of African-Americans vs African immigrants on being black in America. Plus, I’m a deep thinker so my mind will be super engaged when reading about Ifemelu’s inner tormoils.

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