“Love was a kind of grief. This was what the novelists meant by suffering.” (Americanah, 583)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (Originally published in the US by Alfred A. Knopf, 2013) has been around a bit but only recently made its way to the top of my TBR. The novel puts forth some Zadie Smith White Teeth and On Beauty vibes simply due to plotlines of immigration, multiracial relationships, and relationships in academia, and much like both of those novels, I would readily recommend it. Well, I’d recommend it to the booklovers like me who have a DTM TBR (difficult to manage to be read pile) and haven’t gotten to it yet.
Americanah is about love. Romantic love. Lust masquerading as love. Love of country. Fragile and fleeting love. Love of family. Forever love. Love of self. It’s a hard-hitting love story, and one of the best I’ve read.
The relationship between Ifemelu and Obinze is the heart of the novel, but they spend the majority of the 588 pages disconnected and oceans apart. Their story shows the strength of the ties that bind, and how some love can go dormant while other types of love simply die.
Obinze’s love story with America is one of longing, an unrealized obsession akin to a high school crush. He grows up and the American dream loses its luster and appeal; when he can have it, he doesn’t want it anymore. He fails in England and is deported back to Nigeria, a crushing experience that laid the groundwork for the powerful and corrupt man he becomes.
Ifemelu loses a part of herself when she arrives in America, but she carves out an identity and a voice as a Non-American Black. When she returns to Nigeria, she does so having been marked by her years abroad – the good, the bad, and the ugly. She struggles with reconciling who she became in America with who she was growing up in Nigeria and who she’s supposed to be now that she’s back. Her love story for Nigeria is a tortured one, but one she romanticizes the further removed she is from her home.
Ifemelu was never fully happy in America, never fully happy with Curt or Blaine, because something was always missing – like eating a banana without peanuts. That something may have been Obinze or it may have been Nigeria, but it was most certainly love.
Read this book.