Chimamanda’s excellent vocabulary and brilliance shine through in this novel in a way that will have a lasting impact on the reader well after finishing the book. 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 in the United States. The book also delves into her love story with Obinze, her high school boyfriend that she left behind 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 are meticulously described in a way that will make the reader feel like they are right there with her as she settles into living in a different country.
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 to secure a job after graduating, Obinze was living 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 that are 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 the reason Ifemelu went to study in the states.
- The ignorance that some people 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?
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