My book group, which meets once a month, selected Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for June, a novel, published in 2013, tells the story of a Nigerian woman who comes to the U.S. to study and eventually returns to her native country.
It’s a love story between Ifemelu, the female character, and her high school boyfriend, Obinze. Through her experiences and blogs in the U.S., she examines and writes about racial discrimination and explores identities of people striding between cultures.
It took me a while to get into the book, however, partially because of the narrative structure at the beginning, but a third into the story, or maybe earlier, I found myself mesmerized by Ifemelu’s blog and story—her blogs sharp, reflective and brave, though not without humor. Through her comments, racial issues that would make many people cringe are addressed, and people’s hypocritical behaviors, both in the U.S. and back in Nigeria, are exposed explicitly.
I’m delighted that the author didn’t stop when Ifemelu embarks on the journey back to her native country—the story continues to explore the life she sees and experiences as a returnee, now with a different perspective. She continues to be critical, about those “returnees” who were nostalgic about their experience abroad and complain about Nigeria, and some locals, including some of her friends or colleagues, who live as mistresses to rich men and appear to relish their borrowed lifestyle. Racial issue losses its pivotal point back in Nigeria and Ifemelu turns her blog to day-to-day life.
The book is fun to read and compelling in ways that make readers ponder deep into racial and identity issues. Highly recommended.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning doc film. Jian, aka Jennifer Hou Kwong, is directing a doc film on Art Paul titled The Man Behind the Bunny: Art of Playboy.